“The good thing is that we had the game plan in before we made the trip here,” Malzahn said. “I’ve been focusing on Auburn in the morning as far as getting ready for practice and coming back after practice and grading it. In the evening, I’ve been thinking about Arkansas State as far as hiring the staff and as far as recruiting. It’s been busy, but it’s a very exciting time for me.”
While his duties may be divided, those around him at Auburn say Virginia’s going to get Malzahn’s best shot come Saturday.
“He’s going to throw the book at them, and really kind of let all of his playbook out,” said Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. “We’ll use a bunch of different formations, a bunch of different sets and a bunch of guys playing. We’re not holding anything back.”
When Malzahn’s spread offense is operating at peak efficiency, it’s formidable. In three seasons at Auburn, Malzahn’s offenses have broken nearly every school single-season record of importance.
And before coming to Auburn, Malzahn’s offenses at Tulsa led the nation in total offense in both 2007 and 2008.
Auburn’s offense has sputtered for the better part of this season largely because of inexperience at key positions, including quarterback, and injuries to key personnel.
After leading the SEC in scoring offense and total offense en route to an unbeaten season and the BCS title in 2010, Auburn slipped to ninth in scoring and 10th in total offense while finishing 7-5.
However, during the time since Auburn’s 42-14 thrashing at the hands of Alabama on Nov. 14, the players believe the Tigers’ offense has been resurrected.
Although practices have been closed to the media and the public, indications are that Malzahn has returned to emphasizing the fast pace that he prefers and execution has been sharp.
“Yeah, we’re ready to send him out right,” said Auburn wide receiver Quindarious Carr. “This offense is going to go out with a bang.”
Malzahn is a little more cautious, but he says that’s the plan.
“I definitely want to go out on a high note,” he said. “We could be more aggressive as far as the play-calling goes. I’m really excited, really want to give these guys the best chance to win.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik says Malzahn has handled his split duties very professionally.
“He’s been very focused when it’s time to focus on Auburn and us being able to be very competitive in the game,” Chizik said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job. It’s hard to balance the two, there’s no question. He’s trying to put together a staff, he’s trying to recruit, yet he’s trying to win his last game for Auburn.”
Malzahn wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was just thankful that coach Chizik gave me the opportunity to finish this thing right and to coach these guys throughout the bowl season,” Malzahn said. “And I was thankful that Arkansas State gave me the opportunity to do both. It is a very challenging thing to do, but I think you always got to think about what is best for the kids and what is best for the players.”
And among those players, Malzahn will be missed.
“I’m definitely going to miss coach Malzahn,” said Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake. “He recruited me. He told me everything that we’d do and we accomplished that. He told me that a lot of people would know who I am and that we’d win the national championship. Everything he promised me, we accomplished.”