Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn defense, which has been ranked near the top in the nation statistically in recent years, isn't having the kind of year it's used to. The Tigers are ranked sixth in the SEC alone in yards per game allowed and 30th in the country giving up 290.9 per game.
Linebacker Karibi Dede, one of the more football savvy players on the team, says two of the numbers that matter the most are three, the number of turnovers they have forced in each of the last two games, and seven, the number of wins in eight games this season.
"In two consecutive weeks we got three turnovers in each game," Dede explains. "That's one of the keys on defense. If you want to win big ball games and you want to be consistent on defense you want to force turnovers. That creates positive situations for the offense giving them a chance to put in points.
"I think we're doing all right," he adds. "I think the numbers are deceptive. You really only take in the final score and the final production. Any game you can go in and play for the numbers or you can go in and play for the win. We go in and we're just trying to get the win and make stops when needed. You can look through the course of the season when plays are needed typically we come through."
When it comes to the number next to the opponents' name on the scoreboard when the final whistle blows, the Tigers are doing just fine and are sixth in the country allowing 12.3 points per game.
Dede had his hand in one of the three turnovers that Auburn collected against the Green Wave. Nearly reminiscent of his crucial scoop and score in Auburn's 31-30 win over Georgia last season, the linebacker made the scoop on the run but was immediately tackled against Tulane. The Auburn offense was set up at the 10-yard line and scored two plays later on a Tre Smith reception from Brandon Cox.
"We used to work a drill here," Dede explains. "We don't do it anymore. We used to actually work on scooping and scoring. You just have to bend your knees. I think a lot of times guys are bending at the hips going for the ball and end up kicking it or fumbling it around. If you squat down, bend your knees and just focus in on the ball you can pick it up and you've got a chance to score. Unfortunately I got tackled, but we went in and the O put up seven."
Dede and the Tigers won 35-14 in their last visit to Oxford. It was one of their tougher games that season as they were leading just 7-0 at halftime.
As a senior, Dede is 2-1 against Ole Miss and is hoping to make it three straight wins over the Rebels.
"The best way I can describe the team is as a fighter," he notes. "Every year I've played them they've put up a fight and they're the type of team that even when we went undefeated a few years back they battled us. They always seem to battle us and play us hard.
"I know (Brent) Schaeffer because I played against him when he was at Tennessee. He's an amazing athlete and he's got a good arm. The have the weapons to make big plays and really present problems. We'll really have to study up hard."