One of the players charged with slowing down the visitors is junior defensive end Nosa Eguae.
Listed as a third-team player to open the season after missing spring practice while recovering from offseason surgery, Eguae has worked hard to get into the mix for Coach Mike Pelton as the Tigers rotate nine players regularly up front on defense. Part of that rotation and saying he's feeling more comfortable every day with the defense, Eguae noted his Tigers are fortunate to have more depth after being forced to play the majority of the snaps last season.
"It's nice because we have a legit rotation," he said. "VanGorder isn't expecting anyone to go out there and play 70 snaps. That's not the type of defense he wants. We know when we get in there, no matter who it is, you've got to do your job. It's a nice rotation and everybody is fresh. In the fourth quarter we're still getting after the passer and doing our job in the run game."
Following two losses to open the season versus Clemson and Mississippi State, Auburn finally moved into the victory column last weekend with an overtime win over ULM at Jordan-Hare Stadium. No matter who or how it came, Eguae said it's always good to get positive energy flowing through the team.
"It's always good to get a win," he said. "That's really what we work for. The first two weeks were tough losses. You put so much work in and the coaches put so much time in, the preparation is so extensive. When you get a win, no matter how you get it, you definitely take some enjoyment in it. You still look at ways you can get better, but you definitely enjoy it anytime you get a win."
Defensively, it all starts with the front four because how well that group plays ultimately determines how well the defense plays overall. Struggling in the first game, allowing 320 rushing yards to Clemson, Auburn has improved those numbers each week with Mississippi State gaining 182 and ULM 165 on Saturday. Eguae said along with the lower numbers has been better play from the line, starting with him.
"Up front we're getting better play across the board," Eguae said. "Myself, I'm starting to play more in the defense and doing what Coach VanGorder is asking me to do and what Coach Pelton is asking me to do. That's really what we're focusing on. I can't control what anybody else is doing. I have to make sure that Nosa Eguae is doing his job every single play out there. I'm definitely going in the right direction doing that."
To keep those numbers trending in the right direction will take a monumental task this weekend for Auburn as LSU enters Saturday night's game leading the SEC and 13th in the nation in rushing, averaging 269.33 yards per contest. Sophomore Kenny Hilliard (101 ypg. 6 TD's) leads the way for the Bengal Tigers, but he's not alone. Alfred Blue is averaging 90 yard per game, good enough for 41st in the country, with Michael Ford and Jeremy Hill both also capable of doing damage. Eguae said the word for the game and rivalry is physical.
"That's really how it's been since I have been playing here," Eguae said. "We know exactly what type of game it's going to be. We have to put our time in this week, whether it be watching film or on the practice field, doing what we have to do to make sure we go out there ready to play a football game."
It doesn't just end with LSU's running game this season however as quarterback Zach Mettenberger is completing 72.7 percent of his passes this season and averaging just over 200 yards per game through the air. Still, Eguae said the name of the game for Auburn this weekend is stopping the run and if they do that then they can concentrate on getting to the quarterback.
"Up front we've got to stop the run," Eguae said. "That's the thing we're going to focus on. We need to get them in third downs and get after number eight."
Kickoff for Saturday night's game in Jordan-Hare Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT and can be seen nationally on ESPN.