Auburn Defense A No-Show

Saturday's defensive performance by the Tigers was less than woeful.

Auburn, Ala.--Sometimes statistics are misleading when talking about football games. Saturday's game between Auburn and Alabama is not one of those instances.

Coming into the game, the Crimson Tide led the SEC in rushing and Auburn didn't do anything to hurt Bama's average as the visitors torched the Tigers to the tune of 328 yards on the ground in a 31-7 rout in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We just didn't play our best game," Auburn senior linebacker Tavarreus Pounds noted. "You have to give a lot of credit to Alabama's team. They came out and ran it down our throats--there is no other way to put it. They just came and gave it to us today. They gave us more than we wanted and made us like it."

What was puzzling about the collapse of the Tiger defense on Saturday against the run was the absence of Tyler Watts from Alabama's offense. Dressed but nowhere near ready to play a game, Watts stood on the sideline as senior Andrew Zow engineered an offense that totaled 549 yards and was successful on third down plays nine out of 14 times. Auburn defensive coordinator John Lovett said that his team just didn't make produce when it had chances Saturday.

Javor Mills sacks Zow in one of the few bright spots for the Tigers on defense.

"They did a good job of making plays," he noted. "They would get just enough, they were never in that many third and longs. They were able to make plays and he (Zow) scrambled out and made plays or he would just dump the ball and the kids would miss a tackle and they would make a play…they didn't run as much option with Zow, and we anticipated that. but all the plays they ran we had seen and worked on, we just didn't play them very well. That's all I can tell you."

While Auburn had worked on the draw plays and zone traps that Alabama ran successfully, it was obvious the Tigers spent a great deal of time working on defending the option, something that was a moot point with Zow in the lineup. A dropback passer with the ability to stretch the pocket, the senior gave the Tiger defense fits with his ability to get the ball to the right receiver at the opportune times.

At no other time was that more evident than at the close of the first half. With the game tied at seven each and Auburn hanging on despite being dominated in almost every category, one play became the difference in the all-important area of momentum. That play and that play alone zapped the Tigers on both sides of the ball and gave Alabama all the positive feelings it needed to carry on with the upset.

"We busted a coverage and that's what happened," Lovett noted about free safety Stanford Simmons' mix-up in the defensive secondary. "I'll take part of that because they said they weren't sure of the call."

"When they scored before halftime it was a big play," Junior Rosegreen agreed. "In the game of football anything can happen. All you have to do is go out there, do what you have to do, and you can get back in the game." Unfortunately for Rosegreen and his teammates, that wasn't the case on Saturday as the Crimson Tide used the momentum of that last-minute touchdown in the first half to monumental success in the second as they rolled to the easy victory by punishing Auburn's defense time and time again with the duo of Santonio Beard and Ahmaad Galloway, who rushed for a combined 326 yards on just 34 carries.

"The passing attack I felt we were prepared for," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "The draw and the off-tackle plays we didn't fill the holes like we were supposed to…we worked a lot on the option but then Watts didn't play so they ran a lot of passes and the draw. They didn't run much option."

For now the Tiger defenders are left guessing what went wrong. Whether it was poor game planning, poor tackling or just poor effort is anyone's guess. Now this team just has to find its identity. That's something cornerback Roderick Hood said is still a mystery.

"I have no idea," he noted. "We didn't attack. I don't think we fit where we were supposed to fit on defense and it showed. They ran the ball pretty much at will. We just have to bounce back…they ran it down our throats."

DeMarco McNeil agreed and said, "We're just going to have to come back, make adjustments and get ready for LSU."

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