While Auburn's offense has been the talk of the SEC this year with its big-plays and average of 40 points scored per game, the defense has definitely been the junior partner as Auburn makes a run at the SEC and BCS championships.
In Auburn's 51-31 victory at Ole Miss on Saturday, the Tigers started slowly on defense before rallying in the second and third quarters vs. the Rebels.
After giving up 14 points, six first downs and 185 yards in the first quarter, the Tigers allowed Ole Miss three points, three first downs and 88 yards in the second quarter as visiting Auburn turned a 14-14 tie into a 34-17 halftime advantage.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof's bunch made more progress in the third quarter as the Rebels failed to score in the period and managed to gain just 32 yards as Auburn built a commanding 44-17 lead going into the final quarter.
"They hit us with a couple of plays early," Roof said. "They came out with some different things and really changed a lot of the complexion of what they were doing on offense based on what we had seen up to this point.
"We made some adjustments and our kids responded," the coach said. "There in the second and third quarters I thought they were really good quarters for us. Even until halfway through the fourth quarter we played well. That penalty (pass interference) kept us on the field that resulted in a score.
"Then that last drive, you don't want to finish a game like that," Roof said. "You want your backups to get in there and represent you. That was a little disappointing, but overall to come in and get a win when a lot of people said this was a set up game for us, our kids did what they've done every week. That's what makes us a team right now."
In the second quarter the Auburn defense intercepted a pass, forced a three-and-out punt and stopped Ole Miss on four downs when the Rebels tried to convert a fourth down and one play at their own 41. Auburn cashed that defensive stop into a Wes Byrum field just before halftime.
Nick Fairley is a candidate for SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
In the third quarter the defense did its part to keep Auburn's momentum going by forcing three-and-outs on the first two offensive possessions for Ole Miss.
"It was huge," Roof said when asked about the defensive stops. "It all works together. No matter how you slice it a game usually comes down to field position. If you're getting three-and-outs you're going to flip the field. With our offense, they're going to move the ball and score points on everybody they play. That's something our kids have, a lot of confidence in each other. That's what makes this a fun team to be a part of.
"We've got to do our job and put guys in positions to make plays," Roof added. "We're not a dominating defense, but we've got to do our part and carry our load. We owe that to our fans, to each other, and to Auburn. That's what we've got to do."
Roof will put his Tigers back on the field this Saturday as they take on the 5-3 Chattanooga Mocs at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff time is noon CDT.