By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Succeeding in two phases, needing improvement in a third.
After taking measure of Auburn's game against Clemson, coach Gus Malzahn empathized with fans while making a case for patience.
"From a fan's standpoint, the frustration they have, which I completely understand, is the way we finished last season and then to look the same Saturday night," Malzahn said. "I get that.
"We are going to improve. We're going to be a good offense, that's for sure," he said. "We need to look at it from the big-picture standpoint that [Clemson] is one of the best teams in college football, if not the best. We have a very good defense, we have a good kicking game and we're going to improve on offense.
"Our goals are all still intact. We're a good football team. Obviously, we didn't get it done on one side of the football. It's frustrating for me, it's frustrating for our coaches, but we have a team with great leadership. We have a staff that's very close, and we're going to put it in our rearview mirror. Our mind is on Mercer. We're going to play well and we need to improve each week. We have the makings of a good football team."
"Chip's comfort zone is upstairs - being able to see the field, see defenses," Malzahn said. "Originally, he felt pretty strongly that he needed to be there with the quarterback and look him in the eye and all that. You learn and you look at things and what's best for the team, and he feels very confident that it's going to help him, and I know it will.
"The fact that Herb is going to be down there with his offensive line I think will help, too. As a coach, you really look for things to help your team, and I believe that will happen. I think as a coach, you always look at how you can improve and what you can do to make your players better, so it's not an overreaction. It is more of a reaction to what is best."
Auburn returns to Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday for Homecoming against Mercer at 3 p.m. on SEC Network's alternate channel.
"Our message to our team is that this is really about us," Malzahn said. "I'm very proud of our players. I thought they played extremely hard and they played their guts out."
That includes quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who completed 13 of 24 passes for 79 yards while facing a persistent pass rush.
"He was put in some tough spots and he was hit quite a bit," Malzahn said. "I thought he played with courage and fought."
His weekly Tuesday session with reporters concluded, Malzahn returned to his office, seeking ways to get better while staying the course.
"We're looking at everything right now," Malzahn said. "We're not going to overreact. We are a good offense. You will see the offense improve. We've just got to a better job of coaching our guys and getting them prepared."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer