Tigers Looking for More From the Defense

The seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers are looking to improve as they prepare for their third road game this season.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn is ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense going into Saturday's road game at Ole Miss, but Coach Tommy Tuberville says he isn't satisfied with what he is seeing from his 7-1 Tigers.

"We have brother-in-lawed pretty good all year long," he says. "It's kind of like playing four-ball in golf, and playing two partners. One guy is a good driver and the other guy is a good putter. They take turns alternating and having a good shot, the same thing that we have done this year.

"The offense will play a good game and the defense won't be quite as good. Next week, defense takes up where the offense left off. We are a football team that has some good players on it who have good leadership qualities. I have noticed each game this year that when we've had problems maybe of stopping plays or being able to run the ball or pass protection, the guys have stepped up.

"I feel good about our leadership and what they have done," the coach says. "We have not played a game this year where all three phases played for four quarters and up to our potential as we would think. Hopefully, it will happen this week."

Auburn is allowing opponents to score 12.2 points per contest going into Saturday's SEC game vs. the 2-6 Ole Miss Rebels, who are having problems putting points on the scoreboard. Ole Miss is averaging 13 points per contest.

Auburn, 4-1 in the SEC, defeated Tulane of Conference USA last week by a 38-13 margin. The Tigers allowed just one touchdown, but the Green Wave, led by QB Lester Ricard, passed for 283 yards and rushed for 106 more.

"Defensively last week, we gave up a lot of yards to a good quarterback throwing the football," says Tuberville, who adds, "We have made some changes.

"We sat down, we have looked at everything that we have done. We have looked at the big plays we have given up and the big runs we have allowed. We tweaked some of our defense to where we think it will help us and make us better for the next four games.

"We added a few things and we dropped a few things," Tuberville says. "We are pretty simple. We don't do a lot, but we want to make sure our guys have the opportunity to play aggressively. When you are on defense you don't tie them up to where they are thinking a lot. You give them an opportunity to line up and play."

The Rebels are trying to break a two-game losing streak. They lost 38-3 at Arkansas last Saturday after falling 26-23 in overtime at Alabama. Ole Miss is 1-4 in SEC games with the win coming by a 17-10 score over Vanderbilt.

"Ole Miss is not a big formation team," Tuberville says. "You know what they are going to do. They have a good tailback and a good quarterback who is mobile and can run. The offensive line is good and we are going to have to stop the run and stop the quarterback from getting out of the pocket and scrambling around.

"We want our guys to be confident that they can use their speed because we have a lot of speed. There is nobody else we will play that has as much speed as we do on defense so we want to utilize that.

"I like what we did out there (in Tuesday's practice)," Auburn's head coach adds. "We made some changes and I think our guys grasped it pretty well. They see what we are trying to do and that is a major point. They have to understand what we are trying to do to help them. It is a selling point."

Auburn has given up more than 17 points only one time when Arkansas put a 27-10 whipping on the Tigers on Oct. 7th. The Tigers have a shutout vs. Mississippi State and held LSU to seven points.

Safety Aairon Savage, who missed last week's game with an injury, is expected to return to the starting lineup this week for the Tigers.

"We haven't played well the entire year on defense," Tuberville says. "We took a few quarters off obviously in the Arkansas and Florida games and last week we didn't play to our potential. We didn't play very good third down defense and we gave up too many third downs. But again you keep working hard and you keep it positive. You look for the reasons you aren't playing up to your potential.

"Each week we make some subtle changes and hopefully they work. It all goes back to your players understanding what you are doing, your philosophy, how to carry it out and play as a group. You play 11 guys, but with 10 guys playing and one guy taking a play off isn't going to help. I have no problem with how hard we played. We did play a lot of players, but I think that we need to step up sometimes and find some playmakers to make plays.

"We are a pretty good defense," Tuberville says. "We haven't given up a lot of points, but we have given up more yards than I would have hoped. That is what it is all about, having more points then the other team."

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