Carlton Davis (above) and the Tigers improved their record to 7-2.
Auburn, Ala.--A gutsy performance by a battered, short-handed No. 9 ranked Auburn Tigers team resulted in a 23-16 win over a game Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers were prepared for the ground-and-pound effort led by Vandy running backs Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame, but instead Auburn went toe-to-toe with a modified offense that relied on short passing and perimeter runs. This model proved effective against the Tiger defense last week vs. Ole Miss (29 points, 570 yards allowed), and even with lesser talent the ’Dores were successful moving the ball (341 total yards).
“(Give) credit to those guys,” said sophomore cornerback Carlton Davis (six tackles, two passes defensed) after the win. “They came in and fought their butts off. We fought back, though. We had to claim our home territory.”
Nevertheless, Kevin Steele’s guys on defense made the plays when it mattered. Josh Holsey’s (three tackles, two passes defensed, one interception) second game-sealing interception in as many weeks came with 36 seconds remaining, and at that point Auburn knew it had moved to 7-2 (5-1 SEC) with Vanderbilt falling to 4-5 (1-4 SEC).
“He’s an old guy,” Davis remarked on Holsey and his performance. “He knows a lot about football. He’s a very smart guy with a high football IQ. That’s something that I would expect from him. He’s just showing what he can do now. He’s a playmaker. I’ve been seeing him in practice. It was just a matter of time before the whole world saw him, too.”
Linebacker Darrell Williams admitted afterwards that throughout the week the defense prepared for more of an inside rushing attack from Vandy and was surprised by the looks being thrown at them in the first half. Williams led the team with a career-high 11 tackles.
“Teams saw the scheme that (Ole Miss) wanted to play against us,” Williams noted. “Vanderbilt had an off week before us. They prepared very well because we had to do a lot of adjusting on the sideline. Teams will copycat other teams and see if what they did works. I feel like they went all the way back to the Clemson game. They started running the ball on the edges. They weren’t trying to run it downhill.”
Holsey also commented on the different-than-anticipated game plan that Vanderbilt’s offense utilized and the halftime adjustments Auburn made. The Tigers held Vandy to 125 total yards and three points in the second half.
“That’s probably going to be everybody’s game plan now,” Holsey said. “We do have the best D-line in America and you kind of don’t want those guys to get started. Once they get started you’re not going to stop them. I think we’re going to get prepared for that. It’s a great game plan but we make great adjustments.
“Offensive coordinators do a great job, but Coach Steele does an awesome job of adjusting to whatever he feels we need to adjust to,” he said. :We did that again today.”
The “quarterback” of the defense, linebacker DeShaun Davis, was ejected midway through the first quarter after a questionable targeting call. It was a loss that stung the Auburn defense, but not one they were unable to rebound from.
“That’s tough,” Holsey pointed out when asked about what it meant to lose Davis so early in the contest. “(The officials) called the call. It is what it is, but when you have a guy like DeShaun go out, that makes you fight harder. We know he’s burning in the locker room to be outside playing with us. To get that win and for him to be waiting in the locker room for us is big. He’s our energy guy. When DeShaun’s on the field he’s talking crap. He’s making plays. He’s hitting people. That motivates our defense to get better.”