Chizik Talks Defense As AU Braces For Hogs

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about the play of the defense as the Tigers get ready for Arkansas this coming weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--For the fourth time in five games the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers (6-0, 3-0) went down to the wire before pulling out a win to remain undefeated. Winning games on offense, defense and special teams, Chizik said last night's drive to beat the Kentucky Wildcats was a thing of beauty in the wild 37-34 victory.

"Last night was another new way to win," Chizik said. "All of the wins have been great. I have been really proud of the team for the way they've won. Last night was probably different than most. I think it's really hard to win a game with a 19-play drive eating up seven and a half minutes and then kicking a field goal with no time left. I think that's probably a little bit different than the way we've won some of the other ones."

Unlike the wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina in league play, Auburn's defense struggled to make plays against the Wildcats but some of that can be attributed to mental mistakes such as penalties and also a horrendous night on kickoff coverage. Allowing an averaging starting point of the 35-yard line last night was one of the biggest disappointments according to Chizik.

Still many would be surprised to know that Auburn's defense is ranked second in the SEC in conference games only, allowing just 322.0 yards per game. However that same defense is ninth in scoring, giving up 25 points per contest. Chizik said despite some of the problems he feels like the unit is getting better each week.

"I know defensively there are some things we obviously would like to do better but I think we‘re getting better as a defense," Chizik said. "There are some plays we could have made last night. We made some mistakes with the pass interference a couple of times here or there but if you look at conference play I think our defense has stepped up to the plate against some really good offenses.

"In the three conference games we've played there have been some really good receivers and really good quarterbacks. I think we're getting better. This probably will be the biggest challenge we've faced up to do in terms of receivers and quarterback and defending their offense period. Overall I'm very pleased with how they've competed."

T'Sharvan Bell makes a tackle against Kentucky.

While the defense may be improving one of the concerns is still Auburn's ability to defense the short passing game. Saturday night Kentucky consistently beat the Tigers short, completing 24-29 passes for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Chizik said #12 Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) will present a similar challenge this weekend and the Tigers have to be much better at making plays and tackles when the opportunity is present.

"That was one of the things last night that Kentucky did very well that we prepared for all week, their underneath throwing game," Chizik said. "Either their check downs or shallow crossing routes with the wideouts. At times we tackled okay. There were times we certainly did not. We'll have to be able to play the whole game with these guys."

It won't be easy as Arkansas comes in averaging 30 points per game and 462.8 yards per game this season. Coached by former Auburn offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks are averaging 354 yards through the air but just 108.8 on the ground. Still Chizik said they are dangerous because of the way they sell the run.

"I think he's got a great feel for defenses," Chizik said. "He sets all his plays up with a previous play somewhere six or seven plays before that. He's got a great play-action game right now that it's really hard to tell if it's run or pass. He's one of the best in the country."

Kickoff for Saturday's game against the Razorbacks is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.


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