Slow Start Dooms Defense Against Jackets

A slow start on the defensive side of the ball put the Tigers in a hole Saturday night as they lost to Georgia Tech.

Auburn, Ala.-–They say the most important parts of any football game are the last five minutes before halftime and the first five minutes of the second half. In Saturday night's game between Auburn and Georgia Tech that couldn't be farther from the truth because the opening drive set the tone for the rest of the game in the Yellow Jacket victory.

Surprising everyone in the stadium by throwing the ball on six of the game's first eight plays on the way to a touchdown, Georgia Tech came out to prove a point to the Auburn defense that they could throw a be successful. Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs said that although his defense came back to play strong football after 10 early points by the Yellow Jackets, it was the slow start by his unit that eventually cost the Tigers a shot at the victory.

"We started so slow and they started so fast," Gibbs said. "We can't put our offense in that kind of hole. We can't do that to our quarterback, get down 10-0 and anytime you are down 10-0 it allows the other defense to attack that much more and we can't do that. We have got to come out ready to play.

"They weren't doing anything we didn't expect them to do," he added. "We just went out there and we didn't make any plays early and it showed. They are a good football team. They are a good offensive football team. Twenty-one (Calvin Johnson), they threw the ball up and he made a great catch and they had us off balance early and it took us a while to catch up which is not acceptable. We have got to go back to work tomorrow and regroup and rebound. One thing about this conference, they are not going to wait on you to improve. They are going to keep beating you up. I was disappointed, very disappointed."

One of the few times Auburn got pressure on Ball. Here Marquies Gunn gets in Ball's face as he tries to throw.

In the end the final numbers weren't overwhelming. Quarterback Reggie Ball completed just 17-36 passes for 174 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for just 18 yards on nine carries. The most important statistic in Ball's numbers Saturday night is what he didn't do. He didn't make mistakes and turn the ball over, something he has been prone to do in his career. While Auburn made adjustments after the first quarter to slow the Yellow Jackets down, Gibbs said that he's still not sure why the defense didn't come to play early.

"We just made some minor tweaks in our scheme, things that I don't want to talk about on TV," Gibbs said. "One thing that we did do that was obvious to anyone watching, our corners were way too soft early on. I don't know why. I don't know if they were just intimidated by 21 or intimidated by the speed. You know, we started two guys that hadn't started before and they were giving way too much cushion, so we locked down and got closer up on them.

"It seemed to be effective," he added. "It was just too little to late. We have got some work to do, but I saw some good things out there. I saw some kids flying around. I thought the secondary grew up in the second half. I thought they fought. I thought they were fighting and competing and I saw some good things going on."

The good things happened in the secondary where the play was stellar after a shaky start to the game. Safety Will Herring had one of his best career games with 13 tackles, 11 of which came in the first half. After losing his starting job to Patrick Lee, junior Montae Pitts responded with a very solid effort that included his first career interception. Gibbs said that the play of the secondary was something to build on heading into next week's contest against Mississippi State.

"I thought Patrick Lee competed for the most part and I thought Montae stepped up and competed," Gibbs said. "He didn't start and he didn't sit over there and pout, which a lot of guys like to do. I was proud of Montae. If I had of known that he was going to play like that I probably would have started him, but you can't look back.

"We have got more than one or two guys that can play back there. They are just young. They needed some experience. I just hate that they had to lose a football game to gain that experience, but sometimes you make a lot more adjustments and you learn a lot more about football and about yourselves when you lose a game like this."

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