"No Excuse" Roof Says Regarding AU Defense

Auburn's defense struggled early and often in the Tigers' season-opening victory over Utah State.

Auburn, Ala.--After being pushed around for most of the afternoon and giving up three straight scores in the second half, Auburn's defense stepped up and stopped the Aggies on their final offensive possession to preserve a thrilling 42–38 comeback victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

"We looked like a defense that was extremely young against an offense that had a lot of people back and we didn't play well, period, no excuses, no nothing," said head coach Gene Chizik. "I thought it was a very poor defensive performance. That's not acceptable here at Auburn so I fully expect us to rectify that next week."

The Utah State offense was able to put together clock-eating drives with four lasting more than five minutes each. The Aggies had touchdown drives of 15 plays for 80 yards, 16 plays for 75 yards, 14 plays for 80 yards and another 14 play drive for 65 yards.

"Fatigue is a big issue," said middle linebacker Jake Holland of facing so many long drives. The sophomore, who finished the game with 11 tackles, noted that stopping the offense on third down conversion is critical both for dealing with fatigue and getting the offense on the field for more scoring opportunities.

"To be honest with you, it was alignments and assignments," said Holland on what the problem spots were in the game for the Auburn defense. "We've just got to get it corrected next week in practice."

Junior linebacker Jonathan Evans led the way for the defense with 14 tackles while senior safety Neiko Thorpe added nine of his own.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said that while the defense's effort was good, the Tigers did not play well, making too many mistakes, which he attributed, in part, to the number of young players seeing action for the first time.

"They've been in the battle now," said Roof, who added that there were no excuses for the defense's poor performance. "They understand, and talking to a lot of them in the locker room, they said, ‘Coach, we get it now. We get it why you harp on this; we get it why you harp on that because it's all important.'

"We've got to make sure we treasure the details and like I said, it's my responsibility and we're going to get it fixed."

After priding themselves on their ability to stop the run as the SEC's leading rushing defense last season, the Tigers allowed Utah State to chew up 227 yards on the ground, paced by 70 and 71 yard performances by Robert Turbin and Kerwynn Williams, respectively, as well as 221 yards through the air.

The Tigers also struggled on third downs and in the red zone as the Aggies converted on 10 of 17 third downs and all five red zone opportunities, four of which went for touchdowns.

"Well, they were doing a lot of moving and shifting and trading which we felt like that would do that," said Chizik of the Aggies' offense. "So, some of it was that. Some of it is we probably weren't as physical at the point of attack as we needed to be, and again, that's going to be young guys learning how to play out there, and it is going to have to be the older guys getting us lined up. So, it is probably a multitude of issues for as poor of a defensive performance as that was."

The Tigers will return to the practice field on Monday to make corrections as they prepare for their first SEC showdown against Mississippi State next Saturday.

"We listened to our coaches and made plays in the second half, but we are not where we need to be," said defensive end Nosa Eguae, who finished the game with three tackles. "We have a big game next week, and that's what we will focus on."

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