No. 18 LSU visits a struggling Auburn team desperate for win
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Gus Malzahn and Auburn are in desperate need of a win. Les Miles and LSU are well acquainted with that feeling.
The two Southeastern Conference Western Division rivals meet Saturday night having both dealt with disappointing losses and considerable angst among fans.
No. 18 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) has rebounded with two wins after an opening upset by then-unranked Wisconsin that renewed criticism of Miles. Auburn (1-2, 0-1) is trying to bounce back from a double whammy of home losses to No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 5 Clemson that Malzahn said ''have probably hurt me worse than any of the others.''
A win over LSU would ease some of that pain, especially after last season's 45-21 thumping by Miles' team. Malzahn promised his team will stay together and start winning.
''There will be no friction within this team,'' he said. ''The big thing for me is that our players are playing their guts out and they are playing hard. We have to coach them better and that starts with me.
''We are close, and when you really look at it, we played two really good teams and had opportunities. We just have to take that next step. We are going to get this thing turned around.''
Things don't get any easier, with four more ranked teams looming on Auburn's schedule after this one.
LSU has shown signs of turning things around with the emergence of quarterback Danny Etling, who led LSU to a 23-20 win over Mississippi State in his starting debut. But LSU was outscored 17-0 in the second half.
Some other things to watch when No. 18 LSU visits Auburn:
STOPPING FOURNETTE: Auburn defenders are seeking redemption for the embarrassments dished out by LSU tailback Leonard Fournette. Fournette shook off, juked and ran over Auburn players en route to 228 yards, three touchdowns and a number of youtube.com videos. Malzahn said Auburn players will want to redeem themselves individually. ''Their running back had one of those Heisman-type games, but it's a different year,'' he said. ''We're going to have to tackle well. We're going to have to gang tackle.''
FACING STEELE: Auburn first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele left the same job at LSU to work for Malzahn. Steele broke the news after LSU's bowl win over Texas Tech just after Miles returned to the hotel to eat. ''And I said, `Huh?''' Miles recalled. ''So I was relatively shocked. I understood, and I really wish him well.''
ETLING ON THE ROAD: LSU quarterback Danny Etling made his first start since transferring from Purdue against Mississippi State. Now he hits the road for the first time. Etling replaced a struggling Brandon Harris a week earlier against FCS Jacksonville State. ''I think Danny is going to be a mature guy,'' Miles said. ''He's going to understand what he's supposed to do.''
PROTECTING WHITE: Auburn just faced Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, and he had two sacks. Now, Steele's defense must find a way to block SEC sack leader Arden Key, whose five sacks ranks second nationally. Auburn ranks last among FBS teams in tackles for loss allowed.
RUNNING AUBURN: Auburn's 240-pound tailback Kamryn Pettway has two straight 100-yard games after not logging a carry in the opener or last season. Auburn will need him and Kerryon Johnson to come through because the passing game hasn't produced big plays or consistently moved the ball.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org