Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Can Auburn survive trip to Death Valley?
By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn has passed every test so far this season. Win the season opener? Check. Beat your coach’s old team? Check. Win an SEC game for the first time in nearly two years? Check. But none of that compares to the challenge Auburn will face Saturday night when they travel to LSU to play in one of the most hostile environments in college football.
“When you win, obviously that helps you, but this is a different challenge playing a top 10 team on the road,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We have had a good rivalry with LSU; they are a very good team. They are going to make you earn it, and they have big-play ability on offense. It will be a challenge.”
Nick Marshall helped Auburn end a long SEC losing streak last weekend, but a trip to LSU this weekend will be a different challenge.
The stats don’t lie. LSU is 39-2 in Saturday night home games under head coach Les Miles and has won 25 of its last 26 games inside Tiger Stadium. It’s a different atmosphere, and it will be one that many of the Auburn players have not seen before.
For quarterback Nick Marshall, it won’t be his first SEC road game -- he traveled to the likes of Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt when he was a freshman defensive back at Georgia -- but it will be his first start under center away from home. Marshall’s teammates have already started preparing him for Saturday’s game.
“We don't have any doubt that he won't maintain his composure, but we have been telling him it's going to be crazy,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “From us pulling in on the bus and people yelling at us to walking into the stadium to anywhere in between, it's going to be like an atmosphere he hasn't encountered before.”
But it’s not just Marshall. There will be plenty of newcomers on what is a very young Auburn team, and they will all have to deal with the road elements. The coaching staff will have a plan going into the game, but it’s up to the players to execute that game plan.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee played quarterback in the SEC once upon a time, and he remembers games like this.
“If you’re a player, this is what you live for,” Lashlee said. “I always liked playing on the road more than home anyway. Not because you don’t love your fans, but you love going in there when it’s just your team. It’s just you and your guys, and you know that you’ve got a great challenge ahead. That’s what we know we definitely have this week.”