Defensive Coordinator Likes Aggressive Performance

Comments from defensive coordinator David Gibbs are featured after the Tigers shut out Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--After posting a shutout in the SEC opener vs. Mississippi State, first-year Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs said that he was proud of his players' aggressiveness and execution in the 28-0 victory.

"The kids responded after last week's defeat," Gibbs said. "We really focused this week on coming out and starting fast and I felt like the kids did that.

"Once we got on a roll it was tough for Mississippi State to get anything going. All of the credit goes to the kids who played hard, prepared hard all week and they came out fired up and ready to play."

For Auburn, it was the first SEC shutout in five seasons,

The Tigers decided that heading into the game that slowing Bulldog tailback Jerious Norwood would be key to success, and they did just that by holding the All-SEC back to 39 yards on 10 carries.

"Our goal going into this game, we knew that we had to stop Norwood," said defensive tackles coach Don Dunn. "If we didn't stop him we were going to be in for a long day. We wanted to try to hold him down and then rush the passer. We didn't want it to work the opposite--let them establish the running game and then open up the passing game. I thought we did a good job of that."

Montae Pitts and the Tiger defense stuff a Bulldog ball carrier.

The Tigers held Mississippi State to 81 yards rushing on 38 carries, which was a considerable task facing not only Norwood, but also a scrambling quarterback in Omarr Conner. The junior QB netted negative 35 yards on the ground and was sacked five times.

"I think that we got a lot more pressure on the quarterback than we did the other night," Gibbs noted. "It got him shaky. He was moving his feet around and he wasn't looking down the field as much. I think that was the biggest key--we got more pressure on the quarterback."

A consistent pass rush and strong play in the secondary held Conner to just 116 yards in the air on 10-19 passing.

Conner, who is a tremendous athlete, made several impressive plays under pressure throughout the game to keep drives alive, but it was only a matter of time before the Auburn pass rush would cause a turnover. Trailing 14-0 to start the third quarter, the Bulldogs were driving into Auburn territory when linebacker Antarrious Williams blitzed and forced Conner into making a bad decision, and strong safety Eric Brock came up with an interception to end the drive.

"We got some fumbles, he threw us an interception, and to me, that's the kids playing hard and playing aggressive," Gibbs said. "We were passive the other night. We made a conscious effort to go out there and be aggressive, and we were. That's what happens when guys are flying around. The ball comes out and turnovers are caused."

On State's next drive, the Tiger D came up with another turnover and a touchdown of its own. Backed up on their the MSU four-yard line, Travis Williams stripped State receiver Tee Milons of the ball and Will Herring scooped up the fumble for a touchdown to give the Tigers a comfortable 21-0 lead.

From there the Tigers were able to use their depth and give playing time to new faces, which was an aspect of the game Tommy Tuberville was pleased with, he noted. "We are going to continue to do that. We have a lot of depth. We need to get the diapers off of these guys and put their noses in the grindstone and get better."

The shutout was the Tigers' first since the 2004 season-opening 31-0 victory over La-Monroe, and the first SEC shutout since a 9-0 victory over Alabama in 2000. It was also an 11th straight SEC victory for the Tigers.

The Bulldogs finished the game with 207 offensive yards--81 rushing and 126 passing--for an average of just 3.5 yards per play. The Auburn defense also forced four fumbles, one of which was on special teams, recovering two and intercepting one pass.


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