The secrets to Auburn playing better as the game wears on
While reading through a few articles this morning, I came across AL.com's piece on Auburn's motto in the fourth quarter that really captured my attention because of one issue that I hear a lot about from coaches who are looking for ways to get better as the game wears on.
As a staff, nothing is more frustrating than being stuck on the sidelines as you watch your team get consistently worn down in late third quarter, into the fourth quarter. Therefore, the goal of every head coach is to have their team perform better and better as the game wears on from both a mental and physical aspect.
That's much easier said than done.
However, it seems that Gus Malzahn has found a way to make that happen at Auburn, in part due to the buy in of an acronym and a new weight room approach.
If you've watched the Tigers play this year it's hard to argue that they are one of the strongest fourth quarter teams in the country. Offensively, they lead the nation in fourth quarter rushing yards (805), and rank eighth in both yards per carry (5.8) and touchdowns (7) over the final 15 minutes of regulation. On the defensive side of the ball Auburn is giving up just over 3 points in the final quarter, and also rank in the top 25 in rushing yards allowed, yards per carry, and completion percentage in the final stanza, all according to the AL.com article.
On game day, as soon as the third quarter ends, Auburn players raise their fists in the air as a reminder of the F.I.S.T acronym that Malzahn's staff brought. The gesture reminds players to play; Fast, Intense, Strong, and Tough.
Along with the acronym, head strength coach Ryan Russel has the Tigers on a heavy lifting program, coupled with low reps during the season to help prepare them for their tough SEC schedule. Surprising to some, players are thriving off the physical and mental edge they're getting from the no-frills weight room program. One player notes that the on the field staff has gone easy on their legs during practice, which has helped the guys on the field to stay fresh for longer come Saturdays.
The entire article is worth a look, but what stood out to me (other than the interesting use of the gesture / acronym) is the fact that the staff has got this group of guys to buy in to their entire vision and game plan, spanning from the weight room through game day.
While their in season approach to the weight room may seem unconventional to a lot of coaches, they've been able to get complete buy in from the team, and instead of whining and complaining about it (which would have been very easy to do), the players have embraced the new approach as a challenge and are really enjoying it. That's a lot easier to do with a 8-1 record next to your name, including a 4-1 start in the SEC, but they have no shortage of stats to help substantiate the approach.
Every season you have to start fresh because of the different chemistry and make up of your team, and the coaches that around for the longest are usually the ones that find ways to adapt and maximize their roster. Maybe Malzahn's approach can help you in some way, or maybe there is something else out there that would fit your situation better...either way the approach is worth sharing from my perspective.