Freshman cornerback Carlton Davis (above) made his first college interception.
Lexington, Ky. -- The Auburn Tigers managed to escape newly-renovated Commonwealth Stadium with a 30-27 win over the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday night. With 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter the UK offense got the football back at their own 15-yard line with a chance to tie or win.
“We knew we had to get off of the field and win the game,” said senior buck/linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who finished the game with two tackles and one for a loss. “We had to suck it up and go for it.”
The Tiger defense did just that. On fourth and three from the Auburn 44 the defense pressured Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, and senior Justin Garrett got the game-clinching sack.
“(Kentucky) kept hitting the inside receivers on short, little stop routes,” said Garrett. “I wanted to show that I was playing zone coverage on (running back Jojo Kemp) and then slide back into the box. I knew the quarterback, once he saw me over there, would try to pull it and run it. I just tried to come up and make a play to end the game.”
Garrett totaled seven tackles and one sack Thursday night.
McKinzy noted that the coaching staff trusted the defense to make plays when it mattered. He said, “It’s all about trust. If (Coach) Malzahn didn’t trust our defense, he wouldn’t have punted the ball. He would have tried to go for it. Just being out there and being in a situation to win the game for the team, it just means a lot.”
However, the unit struggled throughout large periods of the game. Kentucky gained 497 total yards, 25 first downs and averaged 6.5 yards per play.
“I’m not proud of the (almost) 500 yards,” said true freshman cornerback Carlton Davis. “We made plays, but at the same time we still have to improve as a defense.”
Davis did have one play in particular to be quite proud of on Thursday night.. In the second quarter Davis intercepted Towles in the end zone. It was his second interception of his career as well as his second in as many games.
“I played the route perfectly,” Davis pointed out. “I looked back and saw the quarterback eyeing down my man. At that instant I knew the ball was coming my way and I just made a play on the ball.”
Auburn bent for almost 500 yards of offense from the Wildcats, but in the most crucial moments the Tigers refused to break.
“The coaches said the game was going to come down to us at the very end,” Garrett reiterated. “We didn’t play too well for the first three quarters, but we knew we had to seal the game.”
In the end Auburn escaped victorious due to the final stop by Garret and the defense.
“Win the game,” said Garrett. “That’s the only thing that matters, winning on the road in an SEC game.”