Saturday’s 27-23 loss at LSU was, without much doubt, one of the worst of Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach. Auburn led one of its biggest rivals by 20 points in the second quarter in a stadium it hasn’t won a game in since 1999, and lost.
The defeat dropped Auburn to 5-2 (3-1 SEC) through seven games in Malzahn’s fifth season at the helm. The other of those two losses, at Clemson, featured the worst offensive performance (117 yards) during his time as either head coach or offensive coordinator.
The Tigers haven’t won more than eight games in any of the past three seasons after winning 12 in 2013, and now they’ll need to beat four of Arkansas, Texas A&M, Georgia, Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama over the next six weeks to top that number during the regular season.
Asked directly on Tuesday if he had was concerned at all about his job security at Auburn, though, Malzahn said, “No, I’m not.”
“The only thing I’m worried about,” he continued, “is beating Arkansas and coming back and getting healed up for a week and try to finish this thing with the goals that we started to.”
Still, Malzahn has heard the frustrations expressed by Auburn fans in large numbers since the second half of Saturday’s game, which saw the orange-and-blue Tigers get shut out as the ones dressed in purple-and-gold completed their comeback at Tiger Stadium. The head coach doesn’t fault anyone for having them, either.
“We've got great fans, and our fans are very passionate,” Malzahn said. “Our fans want to win championships, and they should. Any time you blow a 20-point lead on the road, they should be frustrated. And I'm frustrated also. We can't let that happen again and we're not going to let that happen again.”
One of the most public and critical responses to Saturday’s loss came from Heath Evans, a former Auburn fullback (1998-2000) who played 10 seasons in the NFL and currently serves as an NFL Network analyst.
In a tweet sent out moments after the game, Evans posted what he believed are his qualifications to be Auburn’s next coach. He wrote that he would take the job for 1/5 of what the university pays Malzahn ($945,000 of $4.725 million) and spearhead fundraising efforts to keep the program competitive and compliant, as long as Auburn gave him financial tools to hire a coaching staff and full control over which players he recruited.
Evans’ tweet had 172 replies, 650 retweets and 1,374 likes as of this writing. Malzahn didn’t have much to say in response to it on Tuesday.
“I can't remember if I've spoke to Heath since I've been the head coach,” he said. “He's a TV guy. TV guys, they've all got opinions. As a coach, I control what I can control. And we've got a good team and we're going to finish this thing strong. People are frustrated and people have a voice. They can voice their opinion. That's just an opinion.”
One thing Malzahn did ask, though, is for fans to point their criticisms directly at him, not his assistant coaches or players, who he said after Saturday’s game that he was “not frustrated with” despite the loss.
“I've got good coaches, I've got good players, and anytime that happens, that's on the head coach,” Malzahn said. “That's on me. That can't happen again. It's not going to happen again. But I take full responsibility.”