Through two games his talents didn't seem to matter as he was barely noticeable in victories over Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State, registering just three tackles with no sacks. That changed with a more productive performance against LSU in Auburn's 10-9 victory on Saturday as McClover had four tackles with one sack and he also caused a fumble. McClover says it was the best stage possible to have his coming out party.
"It felt good to come out here and make plays with the defense and prove everybody wrong," McClover says.
"It was real intense," McClover adds. "I know a lot of those dudes on LSU so they were talking the whole time and I'm talking. It was a big, intense game and it felt good to be out there. I couldn't hear anything. I was just happy."
Stanley McClover McClobbers JaMarcus Russell in Saturday's game.
While Auburn's defensive performance against LSU on the day was much more than many expected out of a young unit, the day didn't begin impressively for McClover and company. On LSU's first drive the Bengal Tigers drove the ball 80 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown to take the early lead. McClover says that was a wake up call for the defense and it definitely got their attention.
"The first drive we were a little too over-anxious," McClover says. "We were out there over-running plays and we weren't tackling too well. We just came together on the sidelines and said if we were going to beat this team we had to play hard on every down. We went out there and paid attention to what was going on and played hard."
In two games Auburn had just one sack as a team and had been getting little pressure on opposing quarterbacks. On Saturday the Tigers did better against LSU's highly-regarded offensive line and the result was a four sack day with McClover, Antarrious Williams, Bret Eddins and Tommy Jackson bringing down Bengal Tiger signal callers.
"We were sending blitzes at them in all different ways," McClover says. "We were twisting up front and they couldn't pick it up. We thought that was the best opportunity for us to get to the quarterback.
"We want to be poised, stay calm and play our game. That's what we did. We just stayed poised. We can play with the best of them. We shouldn't be overlooked anymore. We're trying to show people we can play with the best of the teams."
Although McClover is improving, position coach Terry Price expects much more. "He needs to improve in all areas," the defensive ends coach says. "His effort was good, but he is still making too many mistakes."
Through three games, Auburn is allowing just 272.7 yards per outing and 7.7 points. The lack of size was used as a reason why the defense wouldn't be up to par in 2004, but teams are averaging just 120.3 yards per game on the ground so far. McClover says that while added size would be helpful, playing hard and swarming the ball is always the most important thing for a defense and that's something the 2004 Tigers do well.
"We're not the biggest of them all, but we play hard and we play together," he says. "We have a lot of undersized linebackers, but it doesn't matter because Travis (Travis Williams) and A.T. (Antarrious Williams) are going to get after the ball. We're going to get after the ball up front. We're just trying to prove we can play with anybody."