Allowing 23.8 points per game this season on defense, the Tigers are just 2.4 points off the all-time worst scoring defense in Auburn history when Auburn gave up 26.2 points in 1948 on their way to a 1-8-1 record. The capper to an up-and-down season for the unit was its performance against Alabama two weeks ago. Watching as the Crimson Tide gained 549 yards of total offense, including 328 on the ground, this defense is ready for some redemption and that begins this weekend when they face the explosive LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge.
Junior rover Rashaud Walker says that the team is ready to show they have what it takes to get this team to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
"You are going to have some of those games you just wish it wasn't against Alabama," Walker says. "I think you're going to have some of those games where you get the ball ran right up your throat. That is why we went back to fundamentals this week. We've made a lot of corrections from our mistakes against Alabama. If we can stop the run and stop the run very well, we can make a team one-dimensional and that's our game plan going into each week."
Making LSU one-dimensional is easier said than done as tailback LaBrandon Toefield has become one of the premier backs in the league over the last two seasons with his blend of power and speed. With 18 touchdowns and 854 yards on the ground already this season, including 173 yards and three touchdowns in LSU's 41-38 win over Arkansas last Friday, the big junior gives the Tigers a supreme challenge up front. That's okay with Walker, who says that the defense's first goal is to always stop the run and that will be no different this week.
"It is similar to Florida. We know if we stop their running game we can make them one-dimensional and get some pressure on the quarterback. That might make him make some decisions he doesn't want to make. Hopefully, we'll get some turnovers that go our way and we can be real successful at that. We just can't let their receivers run around out there. They are too talented for that."
Walker and teammates hope to redeem themselves after a poor performance against Alabama.
If the Tigers are successful in their quest to shut down Toefield and the LSU running game, they must still deal with the explosive combination of quarterback Rohan Davey and receivers Josh Reed, Michael Clayton and Jerel Myers. Averaging just over 300 yards per game in the air this season, Davey has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the league after people questioned his play coming into the season.
Based on his performance this season, Reed has supplanted Florida receiver Jabar Gaffney as the SEC's premier pass-catcher. With an SEC record 1494 yards on 80 catches with six touchdowns, the junior is a threat to get the ball thrown his way from anywhere on the field in any situation. Chipping in to fill out the triple-threat are Clayton, a true freshman with 40 catches for 677 yards and six touchdowns, and Myers, who has 35 catches for 417 yards and one score. Add in one of the more dangerous tight ends in the country in Robert Royal and you have the makings of a huge challenge for this Auburn defense. Walker says that they're just going to do their job and let the chips fall where they may.
"They are so talented," Walker notes. "They have a good running game, great receivers and a great quarterback. I think they are so talented at receiver that they just might try to come out and pass on us first. We've got a young secondary, but I think we'll be alright. It's kind of like Florida--you have to get in their face a little bit. They've got some real tough receivers who will catch the ball on you. As soon as they catch it you have to get them on the ground.
"They might be the best group of receivers that we have seen," he notes. "They are real physical, fast and they can catch the ball. It's going to be a great opportunity for us. We just have to go out there and be able to compete with them. We have a young secondary and we just have to go out there and execute our defense."