Stephen Roberts (above) returns a punt for the Tigers.
Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Stephen Roberts has been a key player for the Auburn defense this season. With the injury to Marcus Davis he has added punt return duties and in that role he made one of the best plays of the game in Auburn’s Iron Bowl loss to Alabama.
On the first punt of the game the junior from Opelika caught the football and raced 58 yards to set up a Daniel Carlson field goal to put the Tigers on top 3-0.
“My gunners blocked really well on the outside and it was kind of a line drive kick and it gave me an opportunity,” Roberts said. “My coach said when they give me an opportunity take it.”
It was the longest punt return for an Auburn player since 2013 when Chris Davis went 85 yards vs. Tennessee.
Roberts finished the game with six solo tackles and two assists, tying linebacker T.J. Neal for the third most in the game by the Tigers behind linebackers Tre Williams and DeShaun Davis, who each made seven solo stops with three assists.
Like the defense has much of the season it was solid in the first half vs. the Tide, but didn’t perform as well after intermission on Saturday vs. Alabama.
“We played pretty good for the most part,” Roberts said when asked about the overall performance for the season on defense. “There are a few mistakes we have to fix. I think we are going to be a pretty good team next year. We have got everybody coming back (in the secondary).”
One of the returning defensive backs is nickel Daniel Thomas, who made five solo tackles, two interceptions and one assist in extensive playing time after Rudy Ford injured his ankle. “I think he played really well,” said Roberts, noting that his teammates weren’t surprised but some fans may be.
Daniel Thomas (24) returns an interception for the Tigers.
Next up for the Tigers is a still to be determined bowl trip. Roberts predicted the Tigers will rebound after suffering a 30-12 loss to Alabama.
“We can’t point fingers,” he said. “We just have to come together and bounce back.”
In other news and notes:
*Redshirt freshman cornerback Javaris Davis said he wished that senior Josh Holsey could have played on Saturday. However, the fifth-year senior cornerback hurt his ankle in the Alabama A&M game and late in the week during practice decided he didn’t have enough mobility to play in the Iron Bowl.
*Alabama’s third-quarter rushing touchdown was the first rushing score by an Auburn opponent dating back to the Texas A&M game on September 17th.
*Eli Stove’s 55-yard reception on a pass from John Franklin in the third quarter was the longest Auburn completion of the season. Stove has 19 catches this year, the eighth most for an AU freshman.
*Freshman Daniel Thomas made his first two collegiate interceptions giving the Tigers 11 for the season. The last Tiger to have two picks in a game was safety Jermaine Whitehead vs. Wisconsin in the 2015 Outback Bowl.
The last Auburn freshman with two interceptions in a game was T’Sharvan Bell in the 2010 Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern.
*Daniel Carlson was 4-5 on field goals and 26-30 for the season. His total is the most in an Auburn single season and the fourth most for a season in SEC history.
*Carlson needs 17 points to pass Wes Byrum to become Auburn’s all-time leader in career points scored. He has 127 this year as he passed Cam Newton’s 2010 total of 126 to move into second on the AU single season list.
*Carlson has made 11 career field goals in three games vs. Alabama.
*Walk-on wide receiver Will Hastings caught one pass for 27 yards, his first catch since the ULM game.
*With the victory over the Tigers, Alabama has won 14 consecutive games vs. ranked opponents.
*Tide coach Nick Saban improved his record as head coach to 9-6 vs. the Tigers. Gus Malzahn dropped to 1-3 as a head coach vs. the Tide.