Auburn Defense Brings The Heat

Auburn's coaches and players comment on the football Tigers' defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has been looking for a better pass rush from the Auburn defense. In game four, he got just that from his linemen and linebackers. They really put the heat on Mississippi State helping the Tiger defense intercept two passes and force three fumbles.

"Reggie Torbor certainly made a difference in out there rushing the passer," notes Chizik, who was missing the team's top defensive end for the previous two outings after the junior injured his ankle in the opener at Southern California.

"Reggie made three or four big plays and that certainly helps," Chizik notes. "It allows you to play a little more zone coverage and he did a great job. We got more pressure than we have been getting with a four-man rush and that helps"

Torbor was personally responsible for three quarterback sacks. On one he caused a fumble and recovered it. "I was having a lot of fun out there," says Torbor. "I wasn't enjoying sitting on the sidelines."

Chizik says the Tigers also got a better inside pass rush from the interior linemen. "I think that was big for us. We talked about that all week being able to go to a four-man rush and really being able to pressure these guys if it got to a four-wide throwing game. And it was huge by Spencer Johnson and it was huge by Reggie. Those guys did a great job." Johnson had his best game of the season even though he suffered an ankle sprain in the contest.

Defensive line coach Don Dunn says, "We finally got some pass rush and the secondary and linebackers did a good job of covering up people. It was good to have Reggie Torbor back. He makes a difference. I thought the tackles did pretty well. We have got to get better against the run. We gave us some runs against them late when we were thinking pass, but overall I am real proud of them."

Reggie Torbor

Terry Price, who coaches the defensive ends, likes what he saw from Torbor, who played like a star even though was less than full speed. "He's a competitor and I was kind of surprised he held up as well as he did on that bad ankle," Price notes. "He really kind of favored it a lot during the week."

Auburn's big pass rush changed the momentum of the game and got Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant out of his rhythm. "We needed to do that, we needed to bring some pressure on him and knock him around some and hit him a few times," Chizik says. "And, we got to him. One time Karlos Dansby really got to him and got a good hit. We had to pressure him. We had to mix in the blitzes with the zone coverage with a little bit of man coverage."

Mississippi State has an impressive group of receivers and decided to take advantage of the wideouts more than a traditional MSU offense. "They were giving us a lot of passes on first down and keeping us a little bit off balance so we just pressured them on first down," Chizik says. "The lead certainly helped us right there and then the score got to 21-14 and we had to tighten things up some and we had two big back-to-back stops in the third or the fourth quarter and that was huge. But they got on a roll there for a while and we had to put the fire out after that second touchdown."

Chizik says he saw good play from linebackers Mark Brown, Dontarrious Thomas and Dansby as well as cornerback Horace Willis, who picked off a pass coming off the bench behind Roderick Hood.

Horace Willis

"Coach Chizik asked for five turnovers on the day and we got six (counting special teams) so we got more than he asked," notes Willis. "Anybody who gets six turnovers deserves to win the game and by a lot of points. We stepped it up big on defense. The more turnovers we got, the hungrier we got. We wanted about eight or nine, but we will settle for six."

The players are taking a two-day break from practice before returning for a Sunday evening workout. The AU coaching staff is working on the game plan this weekend for the Syracuse game, which is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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