Despite being put in bad situation after bad situation in a first half that saw the offense manage no points and just six first downs, Auburn's defense held strong and kept the Tigers in the game. In the end they held Alabama's vaunted rushing attack to just 50 rushing yards for the game in a 21-13 victory Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Chizik said the first 30 minutes were a key for Auburn as the defense held Alabama to just six points despite having three possessions in the red zone.
"We just kept going out and playing Auburn defense," Chizik said. "We knew what we were in for. The great thing is that we give up a big play on the first drive and our guys never sweat. They just line back up and play the next play. They've got a short memory when bad things happen. They just did it again. They've been doing it for 11 weeks now. No one has given our defense a lot of chance, but they are what they are. That is a very stingy defense. They're going to fight and play with a lot of heart. Like I've said, I don't know if we've got the best guys, but we've got the right ones."
Missing one of the right ones in starting linebacker Antarrious Williams, the Tigers put their eggs in the basket of senior Derrick Graves at weakside linebacker. A Tuscaloosa native that played at nearby Holt High, Graves played an outstanding football game along with reserve Karibi Dede and middle linebacker Travis Williams said that winning this game for guys like Williams and Graves was important, but earning some respect was on this team's mind on Saturday.
"I'm so proud of Derrick Graves," Williams said. "A.T. was hurt and Derrick Graves stepped up and I'm just so proud of him. We came out and played for A.T. as well. They came out and were averaging over 200 rushing yards. I don't know how many they had today, but I don't think they had over 200. I don't think they had 100. We only gave up one rushing touchdown all year. We were holding guys under 20 points, but we never hear about our defense. That's cool, but all we were hearing about was Alabama's defense. We just let everyone judge who has the best defense."
Despite giving up a late touchdown pass and 226 yards through the air on the day, Auburn dominated Alabama up front on defense. That included holding the Crimson Tide to just four rushing first downs on the day and keeping them out of the endzone on the ground. For the season Auburn allowed just a meaningless rushing touchdown to Kentucky. That's it. Chizik said the statistic is something he can't even comprehend, but tells the character and desire of his defense. The character and desire of champions.
"I don't even know what to say about that," Chizik said. "I've never been a part of that. That's all about them. That's all about the heart and soul of our kids. It hasn't got anything to do with coaching, it doesn't have anything to do with anything except that is the heart and soul of our kids. I couldn't be more proud of them."