Turnover Time: Defense Makes Big Plays

Four of Auburn's touchdowns were set up by big plays from the defense.

Auburn, Ala.--On a day when the Auburn defense made a lot of good things happen and the reserves were heavily involved, backup middle linebacker Mayo Sowell was happy to contribute.

The 6-2, 226 junior from Birmingham caused a fumble and recovered it. That was one of four turnovers for the Tiger defense, which had been struggling to force turnovers in most games this season. Sowell's big play led to one of the 10 Tiger touchdowns.

"I enjoyed that game," Sowell said with a big smile. "I had fun out there. We played hard and we didn't want to let them score. That was the only disappointment letting them get that touchdown, but we turned it up on defense after that."

In Auburn's 73-7 homecoming victory on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the visiting Louisiana-Monroe Indians averaged just 2.6 yards per play and finished the game with 151 yards even though the majority of the game was played by Auburn's defensive reserves.

Sowell said that the early turnovers in the game, including one for a 20-yard interception TD return by cornerback Kevin Hobbs, sparked the defense to try to come up with more. "I think it is contagious," Sowell said. "Once somebody gets one, everybody else wants to get one."

Sowell said making quick work of Louisiana-Monroe on homecoming was good for his team, which improved its record to 6-3 after a disappointing loss at LSU a week earlier. One of the pre-game goals was to give the backups some plenty of playing time and that is what happened.

"It was good to get extended playing time," Sowell said. "We needed to get some reps and we were able to rest the starters. We weren't surprised that we played this well. We knew we could do this if we played hard and played well. We knew if we did that this is what the outcome would be."

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said he thought the secondary had a solid game with Junior Rosegreen back to his familiar safety position and Kevin Hobbs playing the cornerback opposite Carlos Rogers. Will Herring got the start at safety with Karibi Dede being the odd man out in the secondary starting lineup.

"I will have to look at the video, but I saw some good things out there although we weren't pleased with giving up that long scoring drive in the third quarter," Chizik said. "It was good to play a lot of different people. That is something we wanted to do coming into the game."

Chizik said that the Indians were hurt by not having starting quarterback Steve Jyles available for the game. Due to a death in the family, he did not play and his backups never seriously challenged the Auburn pass defense with deep balls, something that Chizik was expecting to see from Jyles. "At times they were just trying to survive out there," Chizik said of the Louisiana-Monroe offense.

Kevin Hobbs waits on teammates to celebrate on Auburn's first touchdown for an interception since 1999.

Hobbs said he enjoyed being back in the starting lineup and was thrilled to get an interception return for a score. "I kept looking around to see if there was anybody near me and there wasn't," the sophomore said. "We have been trying to come up with big plays on defense all year so it was great to get so many turnovers in this game.

"On the interception I had a read on the play," Hobbs said. "I think the quarterback was supposed to throw it to the inside guy, but he threw it to the outside guy on the play."

Rosegreen noted that he felt like the Maytag repairman on Saturday with the Indians not challenging the Tigers with deep balls. The Auburn pass rush didn't give the Louisiana-Monroe quarterbacks time to throw anything other than short passes while Rosegreen was on the field. Rosegreen joked that he can't buy an interception. In contrast, cornerback Hobbs has had plenty of opportunities.

"They just throw the ball right to him," Rosegreen said with a smile. "I can't buy a ball like that. It is like he and the quarterback have just got their little bond. It's like he is paying the quarterback to throw him the ball out there, but you know Hobbs is in the right place at the right time."

With Eli Manning and Ole Miss coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium next week, Rosegreen should have all the action he can handle very soon. "I know next week coming up I will get a lot of opportunities to make plays," he said.

Rosegreen said that he thought his return to safety from cornerback went well. "I was trying to work on my technique and reading the quarterback--run or pass," the junior defensive back said. "I think we are better when I am safety because I can roam the field and come up like a linebacker and make some hits. When they throw the ball across the middle I can let it be known that it ain't going to happen too often so pretty much I feel comfortable back there."

Ole Miss will be at Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. for the first of three straight SEC games to close the season. "We know that they are going to be excited like we are going to be excited," Rosegreen said. "They are coming into our backyard. We have just got to be ready to get it done."

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