Auburn, Ala.--Coming off one of the most impressive defensive performances of the year in holding Arkansas to just 215 yards of total offense in a 56-3 win, the Auburn Tigers dominated from start to finish as Coach Kevin Steele’s unit continued its roll in 2016.
For the third consecutive game the Tigers held the opposition to less than 300 yards and it took the final possession of the game for LSU to reach that mark in game four of the season. Only Texas A&M has gone over 400 yards this year and Steele said like much of the season, the Auburn defensive performance started up front.
“We challenged the guys going into this game facing the leading passer in the SEC and the leading rusher in the SEC to make sure we did two things, stop the run and to affect the passer,” Steele said. “With that being said, from start to finish, snap one to 64 that the front played exceptionally well.
“They affected the run game, affected the passer. On every single play, we had the front four either knocking people back or affecting the rusher and we did that playing good technique, had good gap control so it started up front and ended up front. I thought our linebacker group did a good job feeding off that. They did a good job with their eyes and the secondary did a good job in terms of not getting the top knocked off the coverage.”
Limiting the Razorbacks to just 3-15 on third downs, holding the SEC’s leading rusher Rawleigh Williams and teammate Devwah Whaley to just 33 yards on 21 carries, and hitting Austin Allen on seemingly every passing play, Steele said when you break it down the defense played very well but now it’s time to move on.
“We came out of the game obviously where they had 26 called runs for 40 yards,” Steele said. “They called 38 passes, which we knocked him down 15 times and had four sacks for 147 yards. We were 80 percent on 3rd down and kept them off the board except for the field goal.
“All in all, it was a very good complete game. It's over. It's done with. Henceforth, until the banquet occurs and they show the highlight tape, they're not allowed to talk about Arkansas except to say thank you”
The numbers back up what has been a strong point for Auburn’s defense this season compared to the last few years, improved tackling. Not allowing an explosive play for the entire game against an Arkansas offense that prides itself on that very thing, Steele said
“I will say this, when the leading rusher in the SEC has 17 yards and they call 26 runs, so it wasn't like they gave up on the run, obviously the tackling was good and I think that was because there was a lot of gang tackling.
“On top of that, we didn't give up a big play by our standard in that game, in that there were no runs over 15 yards and no passes over 20 yards. Now, they completed some passes in that 15, 16, 17-yard range, but they were tackled. We tackled well.”
With a fourth consecutive win and a fourth consecutive outstanding defensive performance under their belts, Auburn got back to work on Sunday correcting mistakes and getting ready for another tough opponent coming up this weekend at Ole Miss.
Since he arrived Steele has been talking about following the process of taking every day as a day to improve. He said that’s never been more important than it is right now for this Auburn defense.
“There’s going to be extreme successes in the process and you have to put that behind you,” Steele said. “We preached it, we preached it today, it’s not a sermon that hasn’t been preached since we arrived. That having been said too, there’s no guarantee so we will keep preaching it. They have been pretty mature because of our leadership in the room.
“It became more evident in the open week where there was all the reason in the world to lose a little bit of edge in practice. To not understand we have to work as hard this week as we’ve worked all year long and you don’t have a game. They came out and did that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and really did it because of the leadership on the team.”