Auburn hopes to hold onto momentum from LSU win
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers face another Sun Belt Conference team hoping for similar results.
The Tigers (2-2) have struggled offensively against everyone but their lone Sun Belt opponent so far this season entering Saturday's game against Louisiana-Monroe (1-2).
They're fresh from a down-to-the-last-play win over LSU, which fired coach Les Miles a day later, and have lost competitive games to No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 5 Clemson. Then there was the Arkansas State game, a 51-14 win when the running game was unstoppable and quarterback Sean White threw his only three touchdown passes of the season.
Auburn's hoping to build on that 18-13 LSU win built on defense and six Daniel Carlson field goals. Coach Gus Malzahn handed over the play calling duties to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in that game that ended when LSU couldn't get a final play off in time.
''It gives us all confidence moving forward,'' safety Johnathan Ford said.
ULM might also have built some confidence from a 23-21 loss to Georgia Southern and had an open date to prepare for this game. Auburn has won all nine meetings by an average score of 44-9.
Here are some things to watch for in the ULM-Auburn game:
RED ZONE: Malzahn's top offensive priority for the Tigers was fixing the performance in the red zone after promising drives kept stalling shy of the goal line. The team is 92nd nationally in red zone offense.
''That's the number one thing we have to solve,'' Malzahn said. ''We're going to focus on that like crazy. Let's put it this way, you will see some different things in the red zone moving forward.''
CALLING PLAYS: This is the second game since Lashlee has taken over calling the offensive plays. The results were mixed against LSU, mainly because of the red zone struggles, but Malzahn thinks the time was right for the change.
''When you do something for 25 years it's hard to change, but the time is right,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to transitioning that way.''
PETTWAY'S STATUS: Auburn's No. 2 rusher, Kamryn Pettway, has been nursing a bruised quad since facing LSU. If he's unable to play or has his carries limited, that could open the door for freshmen Malik Miller and/or Kam Martin to get their first significant action behind Kerryon Johnson.
ULM's TOUGH ROAD: The Warhawks are playing their third straight road game since opening with a win over Southern. They've lost at Oklahoma 59-17 and fallen just short against Georgia Southern. So the players have some experience dealing with tough environments.
''I think they understand what we're getting into,'' coach Matt Viator said.
FACING AUBURN'S DEFENSE: ULM quarterback Garrett Smith has thrown for 200-plus yards in each of the first three games and is also the team's leading rusher. Now, he faces a much-improved defense led by linemen Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams.
''Their defensive line is phenomenal and very athletic,'' Viator said.
AP College Football: www.collegefootball.ap.org