Manhattan, Kan.--Coming into Thursday night’s game against No. 20 Kansas State, Auburn’s defense was thought to be the weak link for the Tigers. Things became even more of a concern for Coach Ellis Johnson’s group when senior safety Jermaine Whitehead was left at home for disciplinary reasons, but you couldn’t tell that when the dust settled following a physical game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Holding Kansas State to just 285 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers in a 20-14 victory, Auburn’s defense dominated the line of scrimmage and that was enough to get the victory. Making one of the big defensive plays of the game with an interception, senior Trovon Reed said much of the reason for the success on defense came up front.
“Coach (Rodney) Garner, we can be in a walk-through and they’re going full speed,” Reed said. “We’re chilling and the D-Line is going full speed. When we get to the game all we have to do is tell them ‘let’s go.’ They already know. I love those guys. I appreciate every one of them. They are going to take us far.”
Limiting the Wildcats to just 40 yards rushing on 30 attempts, Auburn’s defense has now held the opponent to just 107 yards on the ground in the last 10 quarters of play. With that as the backdrop it became a secondary game as Reed and his fellow defensive backs kept the speedy Kansas State receivers out of the endzone.
Reed also made one of the biggest plays of the game when he fought the Kansas State receiver for the football, earning his second interception of the season. It was just one several plays he made along with safety Josh Holsey, both of whom saw their roles increase without Whitehead on the field. With Jonathan Jones and Jonathon Mincy holding down the corners along with Reed, Jones said it comes as no surprise to see Holsey step up in a time of need for the defense.
“It’s experience,” Jones said. “He’s been there and done that. He’s calm and experienced. He knows what he’s doing back there. Anytime you’re playing corner you want to be able to trust your safety, and I trust him.”
That trust was huge for a defense that has continued to get better in the second year of Johnson’s system. A team that most thought would have to outscore it’s opponents again in 2014, Auburn got a stellar defensive game and Reed said it could be just the type of thing that pushes the Tigers over the top later in the year.
“Coach Johnson gets on us,” Reed said. “He says to make them earn it. If they just come out there and line up and beat us, then it’s our fault. Just giving them stuff is not good. Tonight we didn’t give them anything, we made them earn it. That’s a great team.”
Jones echoed the sentiments of his teammate as the Tigers return home with a hard-fought win that could pay dividends in a big way.
“It’s great,” Jones said. “They have an All-American and some great guys. When you’re able to stop them, that’s a confidence booster. We held some of their good guys under what they normally get and I know they’re frustrated. We did a good job on defense.”