Chizik Looking For More From Defense

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik talks defense and where he's looking for improvement on that side of the ball.

Auburn, Ala.—It's hard to imagine a defense that gave up 34 points, 31 first downs and 531 yards of total offense made an improvement from the previous week, but that's what Auburn Coach Gene Chizik said happened with the Tigers in the victory over Mississippi State Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"I think it was -- based on who we were playing, how good they were," Chizik said. "Let's not lose sight of going back into last year. They scored over 30 points in their last two games of the regular season. Scored over 50 points in the bowl game. Scored 59 the week before they played us, with 10 guys back. Defensively, are we happy with the outcome yesterday in terms of how we played top to bottom? Absolutely not.

"We gave up 27 points. Are we happy with that? No. If you look at the big picture, going back to last year, they're good on offense. Great game to win. Lots of teaching moments in there. We're looking for something much better than what we're getting. Our players know that. Everybody is on the same page."

Playing 11 players up front on defense with Dee Ford and Jamar Travis the lone upperclassmen, Auburn allowed 333 yards on the ground and is currently ranked 118th in the country in rushing defense after leading the SEC last season. Chizik said the young guys did some good things again but still have a long way to go.

"There's only one way to do it, and that's throw them in the game," Chizik said. "There was times when I really thought we tried to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage and guys really came off the ball. And there was times when they got tired or there was a long drive, that we got knocked off the ball some.

"The good thing about that game is experience-wise, they went against an offensive line that's extremely physical. Running the football, that's been their No. 1 deal for three years now. And they've run it effectively on a lot of different people. They got a good taste of a team that can run the ball well. And they got a good taste of what it's like to play against an offensive line that had pretty much everyone returning except one. That was a good game for our young guys to play in to get a good taste of what the rest of the year's going to be like."

In the secondary Auburn played much of the day with five defensive backs, something that fans can probably expect to see more of this season. Chizik said several factors including personnel, the opposing offense and getting more speed on the field come into play when making that decision.

"It was a little of all that," Chizik said. "They allowed us to play a lot of nickel because they were mostly in formations that dictated that we could. It was getting our best 11 guys on the field, trying to get the most speed on the field. That will always be dictated by what team you're playing and what you're trying to get accomplished. It was all those things.

"More speed, the best guys on the field, what they were giving us allowed us to be able to stay in it. Plus it was going to be a no-huddle, fast-paced day. When you pick a personnel grouping a lot of times you have to stick with it because you don't have time to switch in and out. All of those reasons."

Preparing to face an improved Clemson offense this weekend and still looking for answers on defense the Tigers will go back to work this week in practice with the goal of improving. While the numbers may not have shown it Auburn made a step forward and Chizik said that's always the goal.

"I'll take the win any way I can get it but obviously you always want to play great defense," Chizik said. "When you're not playing great defense you just keep working every day to try to shore it up. Really you have to take the positives for the day and those are baby steps in the right direction and you have to fix different things as you go. I said it last week and I'm going to say it again this week, I fully expect our defense to play much better next week. We're in the third game now and the young guys have played two games. I fully expect our defense to be better."

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