Carl Lawson, the starter at “buck” end, and Tray Matthews, a starter at safety, finished the game watching from the sidelines. Lawson injured his hip in the first half while Matthews, who intercepted a pass on the opening play of the season, went down with a second half shoulder injury. Lawson's pressure on the Louisville offense was a key factor in the Tigers taking a 17-0 halftime lead.
“We don't hold anybody back,” Muschamp said. “Jacksonville State has got a good football team. We need to go play well.
“All of our guys have been practicing this week so our guys need to go out and approach this the right way. Regardless of this week, next week or week eight, 10, 12-- whatever you want to say-- it's about Auburn. We need to go take care of our football team. We need to continue to improve. We need to continue to get better. That is the message from Coach (Gus) Malzahn all the way in our organization and that's what we're doing.”
Muschamp said the defense was impacted vs. Louisville without Lawson on the field. “It always hurts, but those things happen in football," the coach said. "It’s part of the game and you have to prepare for those situations. <>p>
"I’m very proud of Raashed Kennion and the job he did when he came in. He played fast and did a nice job affecting the quarterback. He didn’t finish on the quarterback like he liked to or we would have liked him to a couple times, but I’m very proud of his effort and what he did. Any time you lose a guy like Carl Lawson it’s going to affect your football team. It certainly helps their offense. We could have used him chasing Jackson down a couple times.”
Auburn’s first-year defensive coordinator said the Tigers are having a good week of practice preparing for Jacksonville State, a 23-20 winner on the road at Chattanooga. That same day the Tigers were a 31-24 winner vs. Louisville at the Georgia Dome.
Commenting on what he saw from his group, Muschamp said, “Really good effort, really good leverage on the football. We tackled extremely well.
“In the second half we didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half,” he said, noting the Tigers didn’t do a good job on third downs. “There were some downs out there we left on the field and I am certain they feel the same way.”
Muschamp said the defense as a group needs to communicate better and make in-game adjustments better. “Those are the things we have addressed with our players and we continue to stress them in practice this week. Those are the things that were disappointing, but if we get that kind of effort again and we tackle that well and play tha twell inside defensively, we will continue to improve.
“We played six or seven freshmen and we played 22 guys in snaps that mattered,”?he pointed out. “When the game was on the line 22 guys went into the game and played upwards of 15 to 18 snaps at least in the game. There is a lot of positive in that.
“We are a team that is a young team that is going to continue to improve in a new scheme and system,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said that he is expecting those young players to be improved in game two. “I’ve been very pleased with their attitude and their effort and their approach to coming into meeting and walk-throughs and practice. The attitude has been phenomenal so the guys are working hard and they’re doing everything they’ve got to do to try to be successful. We just got to continue to do a good job as a staff to put our guys in situations to be successful.”
Ricardo Louis opened his senior season with his first two-touchdown game as a collegian. The wide receiver caught three passes for 54 yards with a 33-yard score and carried the ball four times for 21 yards with an eight-yard touchdown run. He also returned a kickoff 22 yards.
“It was a fun time with my teammates in the Dome, and we’re looking to get back in there in the SEC Championship,” Louis said of last week’s venue, the Georgia Dome, which will be the site of the league’s title game that will be played in December.
The Tigers put on an uneven performance in their 31-24 victory over Louisville that featured a lot of miscues to go with the big plays.
“We can learn from our mistakes, and that is one of the big things learning from that game,” Louis said. “Turnovers are never good, especially when you have three on offense you are not supposed to win the game, but we came through. Our defense helped us come through.”
Louis predicts that quarterback Jeremy Johnson will bounce back from a disappointing performance vs. Louisville. “I think he stayed positive,” the wide receiver said. “He knows he needs to look ahead and not worry about the past.
“Playing quarterback, that is one thing you really have to work on, having a short-term memory,” Louis added. “That is what he has.”
Good quarterback play by Louisville freshman Lamar Jackson sparked a second half comeback for the Cardinals after Auburn took a 17-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Much of the damage Jackson did was on scrambles for good yardage when avoiding the pass rush or on QB keepers around end.
Senior linebacker Justin Garrett, who scored on an 82-yard fumble return for Auburn’s second touchdown of the game, said the defense needs to make adjustments so there isn’t a repeat performance of what happened with the Louisville quarterback in the second half.
Justin Garrett (26) scores his first college touchdown and was escorted into by fellow linebacker Tre Williams (30).
“It’s just something we’ve got to correct on ourselves--you know, just staying with backside pursuits, staying level with the quarterback and keeping the quarterback from running around, defensive backs staying with their receivers and stuff like that,” Garrett said.
“It’s nothing too special, nothing too hard that we can’t handle,” he added. “We’ve just got to go over and work in the film, work in the individual period, and we will have it corrected by next week.”
In other news and notes:
*Kickoff for the home opener is set for shortly after 11 a.m. and both teams are ranked with the Tigers sixth and seventh in the major polls while JSU is fifth in the FCS coaches poll.
*Prior to his matchup the highest ranked FBS (Division I-A) opponent the Gamecocks have faced was Florida in 2012 when the Gators were ranked seventh.
*Fans arriving at the stadium around 10:15 a.m. will be able to see the unveiling of college football’s largest video board, which measures 190 feet wide by 57 feet high. The entire project, which includes a new sound system plus ribbon boards on the east and west sides of the stadium, cost $13.9 million.
Improving the sound system in Jordan-Hare Stadium has been one of the most requested upgrades by Auburn fans in recent years. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said that the university has spent $2 million to make that happen.
*TV coverage of the Tigers vs. Gamecocks matchup is on the SEC Network with Dave Neal doing the play-by-play while Matt Stinchcomb will serve as the analyst and Dawn Davenport the sideline reporter.
*Radio coverage (94.3 FM in Auburn) on the Auburn Network features Rod Bramblett with the play-by-play, Stan White as the color analyst with Quentin Riggins the sideline reporter and Paul Ellen as the studio host. Their broadcast can also be heard on Sirius channel 83 and XM channel 190.
*The game will be the 10th consecutive sellout at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a streak that will continue for all seven home games this year with the Tigers selling all of their tickets in the preseason.
*Gus Malzahn said again on Wednesday that he expects the players who were hurt in the win over Louisville to be available for action on Saturday as the Tigers play Jacksonville State for the first time in football. Auburn has an all-time record of 92-47-2 vs. opponents from the state of Alabama.
*Daniel Carlson, the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, noted that it felt good to nail his first field goal of the season, a 56-yarder just before halftime that was down the middle with plenty of room to spare. The kick was just a yard shy of Auburn’s school record.
“It was big for me to just get that first one under my belt again,” said the sophomore, who noted that he feels comfortable he can make any field goal try 60 yards or closer. “It was a bonus that it was a longer one,” he said about his first make of the season.
*Jacksonville State won the Ohio Valley Conference last season featuring a roster loaded with in-state players. This season Coach John Grass has 60 players from the state of Alabama on his roster, 23 more than the Tigers. Two of those in-state players, senior defensive tackle and senior linebacker Chris Landrum, transferred to JSU from Auburn and are key performers for the Gamecocks.