Auburn, Ala.--After reviewing the game film from Auburn's 38-13 victory over Tulane defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says that seeing it a second time gave him the same impression that the first viewing did Saturday afternoon.
"It's exactly what we thought when the game was over," Muschamp says. "We can't get off the field on third down. Certainly there are some times when we could have covered better and pressured better but they made some throws. I think that was the biggest thing. We were 42 percent on third down where last week we were 86 percent. When they are able to sustain drives and keep drives alive that's what kills you. At halftime we had given up 160 yards and 12 yards rushing. At that point we were okay but we gave up the one deep ball there to the post which is disappointing in a situation where you've got to keep them bottled down. At the three-yard line coming out we let them out on a third and six."
Saturday continued a pattern for Auburn's defense as third down conversions were again a problem area for the defense. Against Tulane the Tigers gave up the majority of their yards following two key third-down conversions by the Green Wave. Muschamp says that Lester Ricard is a tough quarterback to contain but defensively Auburn should have done a better job against him and the Tulane offense.
"The kid made some throws," Muschamp says. "We can cover certainly better and we can pressure certainly better. We gave up 60 yards rushing on the last two drives. That's where we kind of lost our edge a little bit in the rushing game. Third down to me is so critical. You look at the games we've given up yardage, the Arkansas game, the South Carolina game and this ballgame, and we've been in the 40 percents of getting off the field. That's something we've been emphasizing to our team all year about ending drives and getting off the field.
"We've got to do a better job of playing third downs," he adds. "Tulane did not do one thing we weren't prepared for. We've just got to do a better job of planning and putting our kids in better positions and executing what we're trying to do. Again the kid made some throws. We got good coverage in several third down instances and the kid makes a heck of a throw. That's going to happen but we've got to cover better and find ways to get off the field."
After facing spread offenses South Carolina and Florida already this season, Auburn once again struggled against the spread employed by Tulane. The problem against the Gamecocks and the Green Wave was in the middle of the field where the nickel back didn't cover well and was beaten several times. Muschamp says that's a problem they've got to fix heading into this week's game against Ole Miss and yet another spread attack.
"There were times late in the game we didn't re-route well in our zones," Muschamp says. "You can't let a spread offense run down the field you've got to re-route. We did a great job at corner but our inside guys didn't do a good job of re-routing people running down the field. We've got to do a better job of getting our hands on guys and disrupting the timing in the passing game."
Starting the week of the Florida game Muschamp began reducing the playbook for the defense in order to get the mental part of the game up to speed. It worked well for the Florida game in the second half but Saturday the defense again failed to make plays much to the chagrin of Muschamp.
"We've just got to continue to get to the nuts and bolts of what we're trying to do and stop people," Muschamp says. "I think in some games this year we carried too much and it clouded the kids' minds a little bit. We've just got to continue to reduce what we're doing.
"You keep looking for the right combination and the right things we're doing, he add. "We've really reduced what we're doing. We didn't carry much into this game and from an execution standpoint I think we had four mental errors. From a mental standpoint we were doing the right things as far as our players and alignment, we've just got to do a better job of executing and make sure we continue to plan the way we're planning and find the right answers."