Allowing just 239 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers, Coach Gene Chizik's charges answered the first call of the season and he said he was pleased with the effort he saw on the field.
"I'm happy that we started out with a shutout," Chizik said. "It doesn't surprise me that we could do that. At times I get concerned whether or not we can, but if they play like they are coached to play and play within the framework of the defense, we can play well. I'm not really surprised, I'm happy because everything we talked about and tried to accomplish today, for the most part, we accomplished."
Strong safety Junior Rosegreen makes a play for the Auburn defense.
The Tigers went into the day without the services of starting cornerback Montae Pitts and reserve linebacker Montavian Collier, who were both serving suspensions for breaking team rules. Without Pitts on the field the starting job went to Kevin Hobbs with Zach Gilbert and Patrick Lee on the second team at corner. Chizik said he thought the play of the young corners was solid for the first time out.
"I thought they did fine," the defensive coordinator said. "We played a lot of young guys and played base defense. We didn't want to do anything fancy at all, just try to run around and make some plays. We weren't great all the time, out of position a couple of times I remember, but overall I was pleased with it."
Something the Tigers have focused on all preseason is forcing turnovers. Last year Auburn caused just 21 turnovers for the season, but Saturday the defense got off to a good start with two fumbles and one interception. Chizik said that was something he wanted to see out of his unit beginning with game one.
"It is a point of emphasis for sure," Chizik said. "We wanted to get three or four turnovers today. I was happy with that."
Losing Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas off last season's defense, Auburn has been searching for the right combination at linebacker all spring and preseason. If Saturday's play is any indication then Coach Joe Whitt has the right guys in Kevin Sears, Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams to get the job done.
"I'm not sure how well we blitzed, but I know they were active and they were around the ball. The thing that I liked is we had a couple of aggressive hits. It looked like we were aggressive out there. That was something that was very pleasing."
Questioned because of his lack of size in the middle, junior Travis Williams had a solid day running the Auburn defense. The unit seemed to have get-up-and-go with Williams on the field and that's what Chizik knew he was getting when Williams moved to the middle in the spring. The position is one of leadership and Williams is showing that every day Chizik said.
"I thought he did that today," Chizik said of Williams. "That was the first football game that he's played at that position and I thought he did well. We'll know more tomorrow, but I thought he took on the job and did what we thought he would do."
Auburn now turns its attention to Mississippi State and the first road game next week in Starkville. The Bulldogs won their opener on Saturday vs. Tulane. Chizik said the Tigers will continue to add more to the defensive package each week, but for a first game he's satisfied with what he saw on the field.
"Overall, I thought the whole defense was active and ran to the football," Chizik said. "When we had to come up with a stop, most of the time we did."