Oxford, Miss.--In the end this wasn't a game featuring one dominant football team over another as the score indicated. No, in the end this was a game that had a team step up and make plays when it mattered most like Eric Brock's interception or several big Tray Blackmon hits. For defensive coordinator Will Muschamp there's only one thing that really matters when it boils down to it. Did you get the job done?
"Our kids played hard today and came into a tough place and won," Muschamp says. "When you win on the road in this league it's great, regardless of what anyone says. The talent level in this conference right now, there's not that big of a difference. I really don't believe that. I don't think there's any one team that is so much better than anyone else and I have felt that way since 2002.
"When you go on the road in this league you can expect to grind a win out. These guys had their backs to the wall and were going to do everything to win this game. We're the number whatever team in the nation and people take shots at you. Our kids responded and won the game. That's what we came to here to do, win."
Safety Eric Brock brings down running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis. The Tigers held him to just 44 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Earning a hard-fought 23-17 victory over an inspired Ole Miss team, Auburn improves to 8-1 on the season and is still firmly in the BCS talk after another weekend. Saturday the BCS and even SEC Championship was far from the minds of Muschamp and the defense though as they were concerned about the lapses that cost them several big plays to the Rebels. The first two came in the first drive of the game as Robert Lane and Mico McSwain both hit the Tigers hard to take a 7-0 lead.
"They hit us on the gas route," Muschamp says. "Just the tight end down the middle. They hit us on it the first series. The first series you look at two plays, that route and the reverse. We're in a three-deep zone on the reverse and should have had leverage on the formation we just didn't leverage it well. The kids were kind of anxious to jump and get in gaps and lose leverage on it."
Those weren't the only mistakes for the defense. In the second half Lane once again snuck past Auburn's linebackers for a big play. On the day the former quarterback had two catches for 78 yards, almost half of Brent Schaeffer's passing yards on the day. Several big plays and costly errors by Auburn's defense gave Ole Miss second and third chances on several drives and it wound up costing Auburn six in the third quarter when Schaeffer hit Lawrence Lilly for a touchdown on a play that Muschamp says they had covered.
"They hit us two times down the middle with the tight end. We're in man coverage and we're supposed to take the guy down the middle and we don't. We went over it at halftime and talked about it and talked about it. They put Robert in the game who is a good athlete. I know Robert well. They hit us on it. I'm disappointed in that and the drive in the second half. They hit the power on us about three times which was disappointing. We had fitted well all day. They popped about three on us and then we got the late hit penalty on our side and had a pass interference going near the goal line. If they call it that's what it is.
"Then on the touchdown we have the guy hemmed up and we cut the tight end loose. We got exactly what we want and where we want to get and we let the guy go. We played the run better than we have played it against a good power running team. I wish we had not given up the big plays. We had some just critical penalties. We have them back third and 12 and get a pass interference. We grind them out. I tell you what, we grind."