Cassanova McKinzy (above) sacks Georgia quarterback Grayson Lambert.
Auburn, Ala.-- Cassanova McKinzy can see improvement in the Auburn defense, but the senior linebacker/defensive end admits it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 20-13 to Georgia on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I felt like we did really well, probably one of our better games,” he said of the defensive performance. “Everyone played their part. Everyone did what they need to do individually and in feels like it all comes from the preparation from practicing. We just came up on the short end.”
With a sack of Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert for 11 yards and seven tackles against the Bulldogs, McKinzy helped lead a rejuvenated defense that has allowed only two touchdowns the past two games in a win over Texas A&M and loss to Georgia.
He says the sack of Lambert was “crazy.”
“I lost my balance and didn’t think I was going to get him, but I gained it back and was able to get there,” McKinzy said. That was his team-leading fifth sack of the season.
McKinzy even came up with an idea/slogan about wanting to get better that was spurred by strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell. “Coach Russell kept on preaching and preaching about finishing the season off,” he explains.
McKinzy says he came up with the concept of “just leave the number and jersey in a better place than were you found it.” He adds that the group of seniors want to provide leadership and get Auburn back to the defense the Tigers have played in the past.
While the defense has struggled in recent years, McKinzy leads four current players who have more than 100 career tackles with his total of 255. Fellow senior Kris Frost (234), junior Johnathan Ford (195) and senior Jonathan Jones (115) are the others.
With the offense producing its fewest yards of the season, McKinzy wasn’t pointing fingers.
“It’s hard to think like that when you are going to war with those guys every day,” he says. “One day when we put all three together--special teams, offense and defense--we are going to be a hell of a team.”
In other news and notes:
*Auburn captains against Georgia were Carl Lawson, Jonathan Wallace and Montravious Adams. Auburn won the toss and elected to receive and scored on its first possession on a 75-yard drive--the Tigers’ only touchdown of the game.
*Jeremy Johnson started his second straight game at quarterback with Sean White still nursing leg and foot injuries. Sophomore Stephen Roberts made his first career start at safety with Tray Matthews still dealing with a shoulder injury. Nick Ruffin started in place of Matthews the previous week in Auburn’s win against Texas A&M with Roberts seeing the most extensive action against the Aggies prior to the Georgia game. Roberts finished with a career-high seven tackles against the Bulldogs.
*After rushing for 76 yards on eight carries (9.5 yards per rush) Jovon Robinson only carried the ball four more times for 17 more yards in the second to finish the game with 93 yards on 12 carries.
*The Tigers’ Peyton Barber, who rushed for 72 yards on 13 carries against Georgia, is the only FBS player to rush for at least four touchdowns in two games this season and has scored all four of Auburn’s touchdowns in overtime this year. His 11 touchdowns over a three-game period is the best in the country, along with Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech.
*Jonathan Ford leads AU with 97 tackles this year (which was second in the SEC going into the Georgia game), but he only recorded one assisted tackle against Georgia. He has put up double-digit tackles in all seven games he’s started and has had a career-high 14 tackles this year against San Jose State, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
*Justin Garrett had the second forced fumble of his career in the second quarter (first was versus Arkansas in 2012).
*Auburn is third nationally for the longest string of games without a blocked punt. Georgia put some pressure on Auburn punter Kevin Phillips a couple of times, but didn’t quite get there. The Tigers’ last blocked punt was against Mississippi State in 2009, a string of 87 games. UCLA at 89 and Hawaii at 88 are ahead of the Tigers, whose streak dates back to 2009.