"We talked about all week trying to dominate a game from the beginning and execute the defense and get pressure on the quarterback," Auburn Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said. "I was proud of the way they handled that today. They came out from the beginning and didn't have a slow start, which is key as the game wears on. That's what I thought they did."
One of the keys to Auburn's defensive plan was to get pressure without having to blitz, something that hasn't happened in the first two Tiger losses. The combination of defensive end Reggie Torbor, defensive tackles Demarco McNeil and Tim Duckworth and true freshman defensive end Marquies Gunn combined for Auburn's four sacks. Playing two and sometimes three-deep in the group, the Tigers were able to get some much-needed pressure up front and first-time starter Will Herring said that was a blessing for the secondary.
"I think that's always huge," Herring said. "The front seven stopped the run early. That was big. That was always big for your secondary to not have to worry about the run as much.
"It was incredible," Herring added. "A few times we got back there and got after the quarterback and made something happen and made the quarterback get out of the pocket. I can't give enough credit to our defensive line and linebackers up front helping us out."
Learning just moments before the game that he would be starting in place of Donnay Young at strong safety, Herring said he was nervous on the first play, but after that things calmed down. Finishing with two tackles and a fumble recovery, Herring's play was solid and Chizik said he looked to have a good game. Herring said this win was a big one for a team looking to right the ship heading into a bye week.
"It was a huge step for our team today," Herring said. "We went back to work last week after a tough loss and had a great week of practice. We definitely made a step in the right direction today, but by no means are we want to be or where we need to be. We're just going to go back to work. We have a lot of good teams ahead of us and we're going to have to fight and battle every one of them."
Auburn faced perhaps its biggest challenge of the season defensively against a Vanderbilt team that had been an offensive power through two games. Having to get ready to play while also forgetting about the first two games was something Chizik said they had no choice but to accomplish.
"We hadn't played the kind of defense that I envision us playing yet going into the game," Chizik said. "We talked about that this week and it's a process of trying to get better each week. This week it had to be done."
Early in the game linebacker Karlos Dansby set the tone for the day when he came off the corner on a blitz and hit Cutler, forcing a bad throw. All over the field and making plays from sideline to sideline, Dansby was the difference defensively Head Coach Tommy Tuberville said. Dansby said following the game that he believes this is only the beginning of good things for this team.
"It felt good," Dansby said. "That is the way we were supposed to be playing from the jump. Right now we are just molding into a team. We're trying to get the team chemistry down and do some big things in the SEC this year."
Vanderbilt only got one first down on its first six possessions and managed just 36 total yards during that span.
Coming into the game Auburn had forced just one turnover this season, but Vanderbilt had three turnovers and fumbled three more times but managed to get them back.
Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, one of the SEC's leading passers coming into the game, was just 10-20 for 121 yards with one touchdown and one interception on Saturday.