Carl Lawson (above) is scheduled to play his third game of the season this week.
Auburn, Ala.--Although many of the statistics don’t show it, Coach Will Muschamp said he is seeing signs of progress from his Auburn defense as the Tigers head into game nine of the 2015 football season.
Last week the SEC’s top offensive team, Ole Miss, defeated Auburn 27-19 with the Rebels gaining 558 yards, the most allowed by the Tigers this season. This week the Tigers hit the road to face Texas A&M, a team that is fifth in the SEC in total offense with an average of 431.8 yards per game.
“You never want to come out of a game giving up that many yards, but I thought we played really well in the first half,” said Muschamp of the Ole Miss game, which was tied 10-10 at intermission.
The defensive coordinator said the Tigers need to make more game-changing type plays this week.
“I told our guys defensively that offensively, defensively and on special teams there are six to eight snaps in every game that make the difference in every game,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to start making those on defense. That’s really the frustrating part is we’ve had some opportunities, whether it is the first third down of the (Ole Miss) game, which is a huge momentum part.
“We played extremely well in the red zone, but we just had situations in the game, the 25-yard (touchdown) run--we had two guys in the hole to make that play and you’ve got to make a tackle. You’ve got to make that play. That’s one of the six to eight plays in a ball game that separate the winning and losing.
“In the second half they hit the double pass on us there, a 21-yard gainer,”?Muschamp pointed out. “We busted the coverage on the zone there and let (Laquon) Treadwelll split the coverage of our zone there. That was the frustrating part that we did not allow those things in the first half so we played a lot more split safety and rolled up more than we normally do for matchups reasons. We felt like that was our best matchup in the game.
“We were a little short in the run game and to give up 150 yards when we’re playing cover-2 and quarter-half the entire game, I was pretty pleased with that,” the defensive coordinator added. “Our front did a nice job, regardless of the statistics--it doesn’t really matter. From the standpoint of doing what you need to do to put yourself in a position to win the game, and we had that opportunity defensively, and we didn’t get it done.”
Muschamp said he expects the Tigers to continue to give good effort despite the disappointment of a two-game losing streak and a .500 overall record.
“I don’t feel that way because I kind of gauge everything through how we practice, and I’ve been very pleased with our practice habits and how we’ve approached a Tuesday practice, which is a very physical practice for us, a Wednesday practice, which is another physical day and a cleanup practice on Thursday, which is tomorrow, but I’ve been really pleased with how we’ve approached practice.
“That, to me, is a tell-tale sign of where things are headed, and I’ve been extremely pleased with our players being on time and doing all the things right,” Muschamp said. “Certainly, I hurt for them and the frustrations that they’re having right now, but again, we’ve got to figure out defensively those six or eight plays in a game, and unfortunately you never know when they’re going to come. We have got to make those plays and coach better in those situations. It’s all of us, it’s not just them. It’s me. It’s starting off with me.”
Will Muschamp returned to Auburn in December to take over as defensive coordinator.
Muschamp said Coach Kevin Sumlin’s Texas A&M team, which is averaging 32.1 points per contest, will test the Auburn defense.
“Kevin and his staff have recruited very well,” Muschamp declared. “They are very athletic in the offensive line. Tre Carson is an outstanding back.
“(Kyler) Murray is a different guy at the quarterback position,” Muschamp said of the true freshman, who made his first start last week in a 35-28 victory vs. South Carolina.
“You’ve got to handle his legs, you’ve got to handle his accuracy and you’ve got to handle his ability to win. At Allen High School, he never lost. I’ve known about him for a long time. He is an impressive player, extremely talented and a guy that you have to account for on every snap with everything you do.
“They are extremely talented on the outside when you talk about Christian Kirk and (Josh) Reynolds, Speedy (Noil) and all those guys can run and finish plays down the field,”?Muschamp added. “We’ve got our work cut out for us against a really good football team on Saturday night in College Station.”
In other news and notes:
*Saturday’s game will kick off shortly after 6:30 p.m. Central with TV coverage on the SEC Network. Brent Musburger will do the play-by-play with Jesse Palmer the analyst and Mario Taylor is the sideline reporter.
*The Auburn Radio Network coverage featuring Rod Bramblett doing the play-by-play, Stan White as the analyst, Andy Burcham as the sideline reporter and Paul Ellen as the studio host is available on Sirius and XM channels 80. The game will also be carried nationally on ESPN Radio.
*This week’s game will be Auburn’s second appearance at College Station where the Aggies are playing in expanded Kyle Field, which seats 102,733. The Tigers won the previous trip there, 45-41, on Oct. 19, 2013.
*Daniel Carlson goes into the Texas A&M game on a hot streak. The sophomore has hit all eight of his field goals during the last three games. “I have been hitting the ball really well,” he said. “The protection has been good and my holder has been doing a good job.”
*Carlson leads the nation in fewest kickoff returns allowed with five and is the only major college kicker in the country with four field goals of 51 yards or longer this season.
*Auburn is fourth nationally in kickoff return average at 29.17 yards per attempt.
*Muschamp said that Rudy Ford will continue to see playing time at the nickel position and noted that sophomore Nick Ruffin could see playing time at safety after being mostly limited to special teams work the past month.
*Gus Malzahn has a 1-1 record as Auburn’s head coach vs. Texas A&M and is 24-11 in three seasons. Kevin Sumlin is 2-1 in games vs. the Tigers and has a 34-13 record as head coach of the Aggies.
*The Tigers, who are 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the SEC, and Aggies have played three common opponents. Texas A&M, which is 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the league, defeated Arkansas 28-21 in overtime and was a 30-17 winner vs. Mississippi State. The Aggies lost 23-3 to Ole Miss. Auburn lost 27-19 to Ole Miss, 17-9 to Mississippi State and 54-46 in four overtimes to Arkansas.
*Cornerback Carlton Davis has two interceptions, making him the first freshman to have more than one pick for the Tigers since T’Sharvan Bell got three in 2009.