Muschamp Discusses Winning AU Strategy

Auburn defensive coordinator discusses his team's football victory over Alabama.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.—Perhaps the biggest sequence of events in Auburn's 22-15 Iron Bowl victory was the quick 14 points in the second quarter set up by Quentin Groves and the defense.

On consecutive possessions Groves went around right tackles Chris Capps and Kyle Tatum to strip John Parker Wilson. The turnovers set up touchdown runs by Brad Lester and Kenny Irons at a point in the game where the Crimson Tide was winning 3-0 and in also in most phases of the ball game.

"We felt like we could go after either one," says Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp of Capps and Tatum. "We were looking for a spark on defense and we needed to create some momentum for our team and we were able to do that with the turnovers.

"When you go on the road you've got to have things like that happen and you have to create them on defense," he adds.

Muschamp greets Quentin Groves after one of his two caused fumbles against John Parker Wilson.

Another match-up that played into the favor of Muschamp's hands was limiting the big-play threat of Tide receiver Keith Brown and also limiting the touches by D.J. Hall, who set an Alabama single-season record of receiving yards despite just one catch for 15 yards in the Iron Bowl. Brown had three receptions for 39 yards and also had a crucial lost fumble in the fourth quarter.

"We wanted to roll up on the wideouts (with the safeties)," Muschamp explains. "We wanted to take Hall and Brown out of the game. We felt like our front seven could handle the run, which we did for the most part in the game. We didn't want them to deep-play us down the field. That's what they did against LSU the week before."

With Auburn getting the two touchdowns off Wilson's fumble, the Tigers held a 14-3 advantage late in the first half facing with Alabama facing a third and 10 at its own 48. Muschamp brought the safeties on the blitz. David Irons missed the deflection on a slant and Nikita Stover was able to jog the rest of the way to the end zone as the Tide closed to 14-9 at the half.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville took blame for the blitz in the post game press conference, but Muschamp says it was his call and he stands by it, rightfully so.

"That was my blitz call," he explains. "It's a good call when it works, it's not when it doesn't. I went after (Wilson) and we didn't cover (Stover) the right way. That's unfortunate but you have to mix it up."

In the second half Alabama got the ball first and Auburn struggled again on third down defense on the opening drive. Wilson hit Will Oakley for a 35-yard gain that set up a Wilson-to-Travis McCall touchdown. That gave the Crimson Tide a 15-14 lead, but that was about the extent of the Tide's offensive success as the Auburn defense stepped up and shut them down the rest of the way.

For the game Alabama converted 7-14 on third down and had 364 total yards offense. However, it was the four forced turnovers that made the difference, which is always a point in a Muschamp-coached defense.

Irons, who gave up the second quarter score, was the hero in the end when it mattered most. On a fourth and 15 from the Auburn 18-yard line late in the game Irons dived to bat the ball away from Stover to end Alabama's hopes of a game-tying score.

The Tide got the ball back with just over a minute remaining with another chance to tie, but Wilson tried to throw over the top of Irons in a zone and the senior corner picked it off to ice the win.

All Auburn had to do was take a knee and survive cheap shots from Alabama defenders like Terrence Jones.

"Our kids just played hard, kept fighting and kept fighting and we rebounded," Muschamp says. "It's kind of like the Auburn 1986 team (which beat Alabama 21-17 and also lost in an upset to Georgia). You lose to Georgia. It's a disappointing, hurting loss, and everybody hurt all week. To do what we did, I'm proud of the kids."

Wilson finished the game 18-33 for 252 yards and two touchdowns.

"We had good coverage at times," Muschamp notes. "He was holding the ball and he did a good job of converting. He's going to be a good football player. He's going to be a fine player these next two years."

Kenneth Darby, who hadn't had much success against Auburn in his career, had 16 carries for 48 yards. He never scored against the Tigers in four games. Darby and this year's class of Alabama seniors is the second consecutive group to have never beaten Auburn.

After the 22-15 loss to the Tigers, University of Alabama head coach Mike Shula is 0-4 against Auburn. Tubervile is 6-2 in the Iron Bowl with five consecutive wins.

"Coach Tubs is an even-keel all the time," Muschamp says of the AU head man. "He never gets too upset when things aren't going the right way and he never gets too elated when things are goin gthe right way. I think that's the way you've got to be.

"It's a long season and it's a long haul dealing with young kids. You can't get too high or too low based on the situation. He does a great job of maintaining that focus."

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