Defense Corrals Jones In Win

Coach Gene Chizik discusses his unit's performance in a 38-20 win over Arkansas.

Auburn, Ala.–-Coming into Saturday's game with Arkansas, much of the media attention was focused on Razorback quarterback Matt Jones, but Auburn's no-name defense silenced much of the talk after Auburn shut down the Hogs on the way to a 38-20 victory.

Coming into the game averaging 459 yards and 37.8 points per game, the Hogs were held to just 337 yards of total offense by Coach Gene Chizik's defense. Playing a base defense for much of the game and choosing to limit the big play opportunities, Chizik said his guys executed the plan to near perfection in the victory.

"The bottom line is they're a defense that knows bad things are going to happen during the game," Chizik said. "It's all about what happens at the end of the day. We felt like in the second half, they had that one big score, but we bottled them up pretty good except right there at the end.

"I think the game plan was executed. Did we play perfect and did we execute everything perfectly? No, we didn't, but we had enough to get 11 people to the ball and try to bottle the guy up. The bottom line is we won the ball game and it's a huge game. I'm just proud of the guys, offense, defense and special teams."

Even though the Tigers held the Hogs to their lowest point total of the season (tied with Texas), Jones and company still managed a couple of big plays in the game. One coming on a 54 yard run by Jones and the other a 61 yard scoring strike from Jones to Steven Harris. Chizik said playing against Arkansas is a game that you can never relax in because of the threat of Jones and the big play.

"They were number one in the league for a lot of reasons, starting with number nine," Chizik said. "I'm just glad we got out of it with a win no matter how we did it, if it was ugly, pretty or what not. We got out of this game with a win. That's a scary team.

"I'm so proud of our guys. They came out plugging and bad things happened during the game, but they just kept coming back and coming back and coming back. I think it's the sign of a defense that is maturing as the year goes on."

Will Herring, Travis Williams and TJ Jackson team up to tackle an Arkansas ball carrier.

One of the keys in the game for Auburn came following the run by Jones. Ahead 24-0 and with all of the momentum, the Tigers got caught too far inside and the speedy quarterback tucked the ball and ran down the Auburn sidelines to the Tiger 26 yard line for a first down. Instead of allowing a score, Auburn held the Razorbacks on four plays to keep the momentum squarely on the home team side of things.

"That's what I have been saying," Chizik said. "They are going to make big plays. You can't stop nine, you have to contain him the best you can. We just said "hey, let's tackle the guy and live for another down and see if something good can happen". That's what happened on that first long run."

Getting pressure on Arkansas in the passing game isn't the easiest of things to do because of the versatility of Jones and his speed to the corner. Because of that Auburn did very little in the way of blitzing in Saturday's game, but still managed to pressure Jones several times. The biggest of those plays came when sophomore Stanley McClover brought down the elusive Jones one-on-one in the open field for a nine-yard loss. Chizik said that front did a good job on a day when they were called upon to play more base defense.

"We were able to rush him with four," Chizik said. "We were very observant of when we were blitzing because usually if one guy misses and everyone else is down in coverage you have problems. We were very selective when we did blitz. We didn't blitz very often. We just tried to hem him up."

Now Auburn turns its attention to Kentucky and next week's game, but before Saturday's kickoff the first BCS polls of the season will be announced on Monday. Expected to enter the rankings at number three, the Tigers are riding high, but Chizik said that they won't have to remind these players how quickly things can change. It's all about one game at a time for the 2004 Tigers, a motto that is serving them well.

"It's nothing we're doing," Chizik said of the coaching staff. "I think the group is focused that it's one game at a time every week. Next week it's Kentucky, it's not about BCS. It's not about where we're ranked. It's not about any of that stuff. It's about one week at a time right now beating the next opponent and they've done a good job of focusing on that without us having to say it. We don't even talk about it."

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