This Saturday night the Tigers face their toughest challenge so far this season when they take on the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge. That will be an extremely big test for the defense after a solid, but ordinary performance in a 34-17 victory over Arkansas last weekend. Dickens says the defense has to get better if the Tigers hope to have a chance against seventh-ranked LSU.
"Against South Carolina I thought we were back," Dickens says. "Then the off-week kind of threw us off a little bit. I think we got rusty. We missed a lot of tackles. That's where most of the yardage came from, yards after contact. We had guys in the right spot, but we just didn't have enough guys there so when one guy makes a tackle he's got somebody to back him up.
Dickens has stepped up as a leader for the Tigers in his first season as a starter. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the senior is one of the team's most improved players from 2004 to 2005.
Facing a rushing offense that was third in the country, averaging nearly 286 yards per game on the ground, Auburn's defense bent but refused to break despite some tough conditions early. Twice in the first half Brandon Cox interceptions gave the Razorbacks great field position. One led to a touchdown, but the Tigers forced a field goal following the first turnover. Dickens says that was a big point in the game for his team.
"It was huge because if we had given up seven then and seven later in the half all of the sudden we go into the half at 14-3 or 14-6," Dickens says. "That's a lot bigger hole than 10-6. That first stop was huge.
"We got a majority of passes that first drive and it kind of threw us off," Dickens adds. "We had been preparing for power plays, counters, zone weak and zone strong all week. It kind of threw me off, but after that first series we got used to what they were going to do to us. It was just playing after that."
Although the Tigers trailed 10-6 at the half in their first road game of the season, it was clear to see that Auburn handled the biggest blows of the night from the Razorbacks and were ready to attack the Razorbacks in the second half. That was the case on both sides of the ball as the offense pounded Arkansas into submission while the defense stopped the home team on all but one second half possession.
"Having so many guys on the road for the first time, I was really proud of the way they stepped up Saturday night," Dickens says. "It could have gone either way after that first half. Me and T.J. (Tommy Jackson) didn't get a whole lot of action inside. They ran a lot of counters and sweeps outside. Everybody else stepped up and made plays."
Things could go from physical to ultra-physical this week when the Auburn defense faces a LSU offense that can hurt you both on the ground and through the air. Last week against Florida Joseph Addai rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries as LSU pounded the Gators for 361 yards of total offense.
In doing so they also held the Gators to just 206 yards of offense with Chris Leak passing for just 107 yards on 30 attempts. Dickens says that the next game is a huge one for his team as the Tigers try to keep pace in the race for Atlanta.
"We knocked the rust off with the first road game," Dickens says. "We'll be getting used to getting the calls and the crowd. I think this week we'll be back rolling and ready to go. It's the best offense we've seen so far. It's the best scheme and the best players we've seen. It's going to be a big challenge for us this week."