Defense Making Plays In The Clutch

Auburn's defense shows its teeth in the second half of games.

Auburn, Ala.--Just looking at Auburn's defensive stats this year it would look like a big struggle for Coach Ted Roof's group as it is allowing 24.9 points and 355.7 yards per game in 11 games in 2010. While there is little question that the numbers aren't what the Tigers were hoping for defensively, it has worked out well enough to keep them undefeated and in the thick of the national title chase after winning the SEC West on Saturday.

"We're like anybody, we're a work in progress all the time," Chizik said of his defense. "We are trying to get better and contain some of these high-powered players and high-powered offenses.

Saturday's 49-31 win over Georgia was a microcosm of Auburn's season this year on the defensive side of the ball. Allowing 21 points and 162 yards in the first 15 minutes, the Tigers were out of sync on defense and looking for a way to turn things around. Much like this season though it came and when it did it was a solid performance once again for Auburn.

In the final three quarters the Tigers held Georgia's potent offense to 192 yards of total offense and just 10 points. Chizik said it took his Tigers a little while to get things going, but when they did the defensive players took the game over.

"Seven of those points they got by starting on the nine-yard line," Chizik said of the first quarter barrage that included a touchdown set up by an interception return.

"Georgia is an explosive offense," Chizik said. "Green is one of the best receivers in the country. The quarterback was on. We knew they were going to make some plays. The tight end is extremely talented. We knew we had to stop the run first and get the big plays under control. Did we have them under control early? No we did not. We got a little better as time went on. We contained them at some points in the game well. That has happened to us a few different times during the year."

It just followed a pattern of success for Auburn's defense in the second half and particularly the fourth quarter this year. In the second half this season the Tigers have held opponents to just 17-63 third down conversions and 111 points. Just 45 of those points have come in the fourth quarter with Auburn scoring 104. That's something that comes from adjustments on both sides of the ball and defensively that means Ted Roof.

"I think Ted does a really good job of seeing what a team's idea is in the first quarter and quarter and a half and being able to respond defensively to whatever it is we need to have an answer for," Chizik said. "I think you've seen that several times over the year."

Gene Chizik's Tigers, who are 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the SEC, have their first off-week of the season and will return to practice on Wednesday evening.

While Nick Fairley has gotten much of the publicity up front for the Tigers, several young guys have stepped up their game when needed the most and made a difference on defense. That was the case on Saturday as both Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford put pressure on the quarterback and played fast and physical. Both will be needed the rest of the year and beyond and Chizik said if they can continue to improve it will mean good things for both and the defense.

"It has really been nice to watch some of those young guys evolve, starting with Nosa," Chizik said. "He became a starter about five or six weeks ago. I think as he's gotten the playing time and experience under his belt he's become a better football player. I thought he played well last night.

"Dee Ford is really coming on," he added. "He's an undersized guy that has really tried to work and put on some weight and get stronger. He works hard in the weight room. I think he's getting a little more experience that's helping him become a better player as well."

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