September 6, 2017
Ryan Davis: “Now you’re on the road – everything is going a little faster, everything is a little louder, and you just have to slow things down and just lock in.”
By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – The Auburn players are used to playing in front of a raucous crowd. They see it every other week when they play inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s one of the best atmospheres in college football.
The environment at Jordan-Hare is only hostile to opponents, though. The Clemson fans at Memorial Stadium will be much less forgiving when Auburn comes to town this Saturday. It will be the first true road test of the 2017 season for Gus Malzahn’s squad, and it’s a game that has been receiving plenty of national attention all week.
“You can already anticipate – it’s a big game – they’re going to be rocking, of course,” Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith said.
“I’ve heard it’s very hostile,” added wide receiver Ryan Davis. “The crowd is very rowdy. Coming down the hill, they get real excited about it. I’ve never been it before, so this is going to be my first time for me as well.”
Auburn last played at Clemson in 2011, so it will be the first time for all the current players to see what it’s like to play at Death Valley. The upperclassmen have played in hostile environments before, though. Last year, they went to Georgia and Alabama. The year before, they played at LSU and Texas A&M, two of the louder stadiums in the country.
“You really can’t simulate it,” Smith said. “We’re going to try to make loud noises at practice, play loud music or whatever, but you can never simulate being a place like that.”
“You just have to block everything out,” Davis said. “You have to be mentally focused. You just have to lock in. You’re not home where when you’re on offense, everybody’s quiet and with the signals and you kind of [go] at your own pace. Now you’re on the road – everything is going a little faster, everything is a little louder, and you just have to slow things down and just lock in. That’s the main thing. You have to stay focused.”
Quarterback play will be critical seeing as he’s the orchestrator of the offense, and though Jarrett Stidham is a newcomer, he’s played on the road before. In his first college start at Baylor two years ago, he went 23 of 33 for 419 yards and three touchdowns on the road at Kansas State. Two games later, he threw for 258 yards and a touchdown at Oklahoma State.
Still, that was two years ago. And the environment at Clemson will be on another level Saturday night.
“We need to build around his strengths and what he feels comfortable with,” Malzahn said. “That’s a big part of the game plan. There is nothing like going out there. You’ve just got to do it. He’s been on the road, I believe, a couple of games he played in, and this will be one the best environments there is, so it will be good for the future.
“Dealing with the crowd noise and dealing with the communication and everything that goes with it, I think it will be real good for him.”
The experience will be good for all the players. Like Malzahn said in his opening comments of Tuesday’s press conference, this game will be a good measuring stick for Auburn. They’re playing the defending national champions on the road.
Greg Ostendorf is a Staff Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:
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