Take into account that 105 of Mississippi State's yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach and you get an even better picture of how good Auburn's defense was in the victory that kept the Tigers undefeated in SEC play and on top of the Western Division.
"We played pretty good today, but we always look at the bad," senior defensive end Reggie Torbor said. "We let that run get out there for 80-yards and we hate that more than we like the actual outcome of the game. We played good and we just wanted to get him with those happy feet and make him run around. We did what we wanted to do."
The him Torbor is referring to is Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant, one of the SEC's top-rated passers heading into Saturday's game. That won't be the case this week as the Tigers held him to just 73 yards passing on eight of 22 attempts with one interception, not numbers that he'll be proud of, but they sure made the Auburn defense smile following the win.
"I would have felt real good and I would have probably called you a liar," junior Bret Eddins said when asked what he would have thought about holding Fant to 73 yards. "The defensive backs did a good job of covering guys when we needed to. Reggie getting pressure on really helped because he was never able to set his feet."
Bret Eddins sacks quarterback Kevin Fant in Saturday's game. Eddins has come on strong with three sacks the last three weeks for the Tigers.
The pressure Auburn was able to get on Fant and backup Kyle York was really the story of the day for the Tiger defense. In addition to sacking Bulldog quarterbacks four times, they also had numerous pressures and never let the opposition get comfortable in the pocket. Eddins said it was important that the Tigers were able to get pressure this week without blitzing and that was the case on Saturday.
"With the quarterback, running back and wide receiver combinations they have it's very dangerous and we didn't want to blitz a whole lot and leave people uncovered," Eddins said. "Guys like Reggie, Demarco (Demarco McNeil) and Spencer (Spencer Johnson) have done a good job all year of getting guys pumped up and ready to go out there and play. We just tried to go out there and get as much pressure as possible."
A big addition to the Tiger defense was cornerback Carlos Rogers, who returned from broken bones in his thumb to play this week against the Bulldogs. Wearing a cast on his hand for protection, Rogers got the start and following a solid early tackle, he said that he was ready for anything and confident that he would be fine.
"When I made that first tackle I really didn't feel it, so I thought everything was going to be all right," Rogers said. "The doctor told me it was going to be stable. I've got a little better cast on it. I cut it back some so I could run with it better. I felt good out there."
With Rogers back on one side of the field and Junior Rosegreen on the other the Bulldogs would have been wise to challenge the middle of the field against the Tigers, but instead focused early on the outside. That is something Rogers said Auburn expected thanks to a good planning by Coach Gene Chizik. Chizik said he was proud of Rogers and the entire secondary for their performance against a good offensive club like Mississippi State.
"I talk to them all the time about being more physical after the catch," Chizik said. "You've got some young safeties out there. Sometimes they try to get too physical and they miss tackles. I was proud of the way they played today. I thought the first group did a nice job. I thought when the ball was caught they were trying to hammer the receivers. I thought we did a good job of staying on top of balls and making sure they weren't caught."
The Tigers now turn their attention to the LSU Tigers in a matchup that will go a long way towards deciding which team represents the Western Division at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Eddins said that this defense has a lot of confidence thanks to a continuing growth with Chizik on and off the field.
"It's not a week-by-week deal, it's going into every game," Eddins said. "We trust Coach Chizik and our coaches. As much as possible we try to go out there and execute their defense. I think sometimes last year we questioned things, but this year we go out and trust and try to execute."