Stifling a powerful offense that came into Saturday's game rolling up the points and averaging more than 50 per game, the Tigers dominated from the first play and held the Hilltoppers to zero first downs and just 11 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes of play. That allowed the Auburn offense to put it on cruise control and take a commanding 38-0 lead into intermission. Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said the effort during Saturday's game was outstanding from his troops and he was particularly impressed by the young players that got a chance to contribute.
"You always concerned in a game like this about having a mental letdown or an emotional letdown in terms of how hard they are playing," Chizik said. "We said coming in, ‘Let's do like we did last week and set the tone for the game coming in.' We tried to get after them on the pass rush pretty good and I was very proud of the way they played in the first half for sure."
Auburn swarms the football during Saturday's victory. The Tigers held Western Kentucky to just 163 yards of total offense.
One of the young guys who got into the action early and often was new starter Kevin Hobbs at cornerback. Moving Junior Rosegreen back to his familiar position of safety this week, the Tiger coaching staff decided that Hobbs was ready to see how he fared in the fire. From all accounts he passed with flying colors as he made several open field tackles early in the game and came up with his second interception of the season, Auburn's only two this year. Hobbs said following the game that he wasn't really nervous going on the field for the first defensive play as a starter.
"I was more excited than nervous," Hobbs said. "It was my first start and I was just really excited. When I first got in they ran the first play at me, so that kind of helped me out. Any jitters I had went right away after I made that first tackle."
Things won't calm down for Hobbs anytime soon with veteran Carlos Rogers manning the other side of the defense. Teams will test Hobbs deep, short and everywhere in between until he proves that he can get the job done consistently. Hobbs said that idea is fine with him.
"Carlos has been here and I know guys are going to test me because I'm the new guy on the block. I just have to go out there and make plays and get better each week."
Hobbs wasn't the only big-play newcomer on the defensive side of the ball Saturday as both Tim Duckworth and Marquis Gunn came up with several good ones up front. In his most extensive action of the season, Duckworth had a sack in the second quarter and also blocked a WKU field goal attempt in the second half. Gunn came up with his second sack in as many games and is showing some speed off the corner. Chizik said the play of Duckworth has been a good sign for this defense in terms of depth for the future.
"Duck is getting better every day and he's really working hard. He's going to be a very good football player. Obviously, today was a great day for him to be able to get him as many reps as he got. I'm proud of the way he's playing right now."
Auburn now turns its attention to the Tennessee Volunteers and their potent rushing attack. Following two weeks off to get more physical at the point of attack, noseguard Tommy Jackson said that the defense would be geared up more than ever to do just that after Saturday's performance against Western Kentucky.
"That's what we were planning to do is go out and stop the run," Jackson said. "We try to do that week in and week out. This week it worked real well for us. We're going to take what we're doing to try and get ready for games down the road. This was a running team and we figured that if we stopped the run with them it could be the foundation for what we're trying to do."