Blake Countess (above) joined the Auburn football team this summer.
“It has been a huge focus,” the defensive back said. “Those are momentum plays for our defense and offense. Getting great field position has definitely been a big emphasis because we haven’t been as good as we need to be. We still need to get better as far as the turnover margin goes, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Auburn recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes. The first turnover of the game was set up by a big hit by Countess, knocking the football into the air allowing Justin Garrett’s interception return, which set up the game’s opening touchdown.
“We were in off coverage so I just broke on the ball and I got my hand in there,” Countess said. “We always talk about running to the ball. It just so happened that Justin was running to the ball and good things happen when you run to the ball.
“I got my hand in there on the ball, it popped up and Justin was able to catch it because he was in the right place at the right time.”
The fifth-year senior transfer from Michigan said it was a great feeling to see the defense force four turnovers.
“We talk about taking steps in the right direction and we did that as far as turnovers go,” he said. “We allowed a few too many big plays and they put some points on the board. That’s not our goal, but we took a step in the right direction and we got the win so that’s really all that matters.”
Countess also contributed with a big play on a kickoff return, taking the opening kickoff back 61 yards.
“One thing we talk about in special teams is coming out and setting the tempo,” the defensive back said. “I really don’t get many balls kicked my way, but I saw it, hit it, and it just opened up for me. I was just trying to make something happen.
“I’m a little angry at myself because I didn’t take it the distance, but it is what it is,” he said. “I think we put our offense in a good situation.”
In other news and notes:
*True freshman running back Kerryon Johnson and junior linebacker JaViere Mitchell made their first collegiate starts, taking the Tigers’ total of first-time starters on the season to 12 on offense and 19 on defense.
*Auburn forced four turnovers on Saturday (two interceptions and two fumble recoveries). The last game Auburn forced as many turnovers was in last season’s trip to Mississippi State.
*Auburn scored its highest point total of the season (35). The Tigers are 20-4 when scoring 30 or more points under Gus Malzahn.
*Auburn only committed one penalty for 15 yards. The last time Auburn had just one penalty or less was at Tennessee in 2013.
*Peyton Barber’s 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, his fifth score of the game, was the longest run from scrimmage by an Auburn running back this season.
*Senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis has made a reception in his last 21 games. That is the longest streak by a Tiger since running back Onterio McCalebb did in over 23 games from 2010-2012.
*Senior linebacker Justin Garrett and true freshman Carlton Davis tallied the first collegiate interceptions.