Defense Smothers Bulldog Attack

Auburn's defense was stellar in an easy win over Mississippi State.

Starkville, Miss.–-While the offense stole the show in Auburn's convincing 43-14 victory over Mississippi State Saturday afternoon, the defense under Coach Gene Chizik was impressive for the second-straight game on the young season.

Holding the Bulldogs to just 271 yards of total offense and two meaningless scores against the second and third team units in the closing minutes, Chizik said his guys did exactly what he asked of them coming into the game despite the fact they lost the shutout late.

"We got a chance to play some young guys at the very end and anytime you get a chance to do that you feel good about it," Chizik said. "We've just got to get better when you put those younger guys in. We put ourselves in a bad position. We had a chance to make a play at the end, but we just didn't get it done."

Travis Williams tees off on Omar Conner during the Auburn victory.

A point of emphasis for Chizik coming into this game and every game was stopping the run. Last week against Tulane the Bulldogs used the running game to wear down the Green Wave on the way to a victory. Saturday was a different story as Auburn allowed just 81 yards rushing to put sophomore Omar Conner behind the eight ball as the quarterback of Mississippi State's offense.

"I thought our linebackers and safeties had very good run fits today," Chizik said. "With our first guys in there that was our main objective first. We wanted to make a statement that it was going to be hard to run the football on us because we knew it was going to be a physical game. I thought they did that for the most part. We let one run get out on us late, but for the most part our run fits were really good today."

Much of the reason for Auburn's success was due to the play of the defensive front. With just Tommy Jackson, Josh Thompson, Jay Ratliff and Wayne Dickens along on the trip, Coach Don Dunn said he didn't really know what to expect out of his guys, but was pleased at how well they handled the day.

"I thought they played really well," Dunn said. "I only brought four tackles. Josh got his nose busted open pretty wide and he's going to have to have stitches, but he's a tough kid. He went back in there. We played Neil Brown some at the three technique. Bret Eddins got a little banged up. We were really shuffling them around. We're disappointed that they scored right there at the end, but we needed to play some young guys and it was good experience."

A player that has been impressing the Auburn coaches since tearing up the scout team offense last season, Thompson had a very good day against the Bulldogs on Saturday. The redshirt freshman finished with four tackles, two for losses, and was a disruptive force in the middle for the Auburn defense.

"Josh plays hard," Chizik said. "He played a lot of plays today and was exactly what we thought he would be. With him and Tommy Jackson at nose guard we should have a solid one-two punch."

Before the starters took a seat on the bench in the third quarter they established themselves on third downs, something Auburn had a problem with last season. On several third and long situations, the Tigers made the tackle in front of the marker, forcing a punt. Chizik said that is something they have definitely done some work on this preseason.

"I thought we were pretty good," Chizik said. "I didn't look at the stats, but I thought we were pretty good on third downs. Going into the football game the three themes of the game were to stop the run, win third down and get turnovers. We didn't get as many turnovers as we would like, but I thought we were really good on third down for the most part."

Auburn now turns its attention to LSU this coming weekend at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Chizik said the defense is light years from being where it needs to be when the Bengal Tigers roll in, but he believes this group is doing things the right way.

"We're trying to play smarter than we did last year," Chizik said. "I felt like there were situations last year where we weren't on top of our games in terms of being smart. We talk about altering situations. The kids pay attention and do what we tell them and that's why I'm most proud of them. They're really trying to take to what we're telling them to do."


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