September 7, 2011 10:14:00 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Time will be a valuable commodity Saturday.
The seconds will count so much that the Mississippi State and Auburn University football teams will eschew one of the fundamentals of the game -- the huddle -- in an attempt to gain an advantage.
As a result, the number of plays run Saturday when No. 16 MSU takes on Auburn at 11:21 a.m. (WCBI) is expected to be high.
Both teams will feature no-huddle offenses designed to increase the pace and to prevent defenses from making substitutions. The biggest difference between the high-tempo offenses is the pre-snap routine.
At MSU, the Bulldogs have given fifth-year senior quarterback Chris Relf a lot of the assignment responsibility to audible out of a play or blocking scheme if he sees fit.
"(Relf) makes us feel a lot more comfortable, and I thought (he) played well in that last game," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said about the Bulldogs'' 59-14 win last week at the University of Memphis. "We just got to keep moving ahead. You give players more when they understand more. On offense, we''ve got a lot of kids that have played."
At Auburn, the offense is a little more deliberate. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn returns only three starters from last season''s national championship team
Despite the differences in experience, the offensive spread styles look similar in a base package sense. Both programs also have instituted play call sign boards on the sidelines. Auburn''s boards include headshots of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, while MSU introduced the element for the first time against Memphis.
The boards are another element teams across the country are using to counter the noise element of playing on the road in the Southeastern Conference.
"I thought it went pretty well and especially for a first game their was good communication on the sidelines," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "I really tried to pay attention to make sure we were ready for that. From the sideline to the field and press box to the sideline and vice versa, (everything) went very smoothly."
MSU junior linebacker Brandon Wilson compares Auburn''s look, its motions and everything else it does pre-snap to the arm and body language of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is known for standing behind center and surveying the field as the play clock winds down.
"They''ll motion the receiver and you''ll see the tight end flanking out," Wilson said. "They do all kinds of stuff to mess with you."
Last season, Auburn averaged 7.372 yards per play en route to a national title. Part of the Tigers'' success can be attributed to Malzahn''s basketball-on-the-gridiron system of getting the play in quickly, running up to the line, and changing the look without substitutions.
Malzahn, who won the Frank Broyles Trophy last year presented to the nation''s top assistant coach, led an offense that set school records for points (577), total yards (6,989), rushing yards (3,987), rushing touchdowns (41), and passing touchdowns (31).
Malzahn turned down an offer to be head coach at Vanderbilt last December and received a raise that doubled his 2010 salary of $500,000 per season.
"Gus Malzahn has played a large role in the success of our football program the last two years, and we''re very pleased to be able to give him a raise and extend his contract," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said in a statement following Malzahn''s decision.
However, Malzahn is working with a new quarterback -- junior Barrett Trotter -- and he didn''t feature that position in the running game last week against Utah State as much as last season when Cam Newton ran and passed his way to a Heisman Trophy.
"We''ve got to play faster," Chizik said Saturday. "Any time you can eliminate any second or third thought processes, it''s going to allow you to do that."
MSU coaches will work this week with the defense to get players to look to the sidelines when Auburn''s offensive players do to double check their coverage or blitz packages.
"You have got to be able to find tendencies and make adjustments with a look team like they are," MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. "We have to be able to be multiple with what we do."
Relf has said he still has the option to turn to the sidelines, but Mullen said that action is based on when MSU coaches see a matchup issue.
"That''s very much play predicated and defense predicated," Mullen said. "If Chris sees something, we can just go and run it as fast as we can."
The ability of the teams to control the tempo will determine if the game Saturday is a high-scoring affair of a defensive struggle. Wilson said Monday you may be able to look at the sideline to see which defense is getting a rest to know who has been successful.
"The key thing is get off the field," Wilson said. "It becomes fast-break basketball when you don''t get them in three-and-out situations. That''s what gives you a chance on defense for your rotations to be clean."