Auburn, Ala.--Time and time again Auburn's defense got put in tough situations Saturday night and time and time again they came through in the clutch. Five times the Tigers turned the ball over on offense and five times the South Florida Bulls failed to score a single point in the ensuing drive. Senior defensive end Quentin Groves said that it's something the defense was ready for and took as a challenge.
"It was just ‘let's go'," Groves said. "That's just what we do. We pride ourselves on being firefighters. If our offense is struggling or if they're not doing what they have to do then we have to go out there and put out the fire on the other offense. Our hat's off to our offense tonight. Scoring 20 points isn't easy in this kind of football game. We have to continue to get better."
While Auburn's offense scored 23 points, the five turnovers kept the defense on the field for the bulk of the third quarter and eventually led to them running out of gas late. Still it took a long kickoff return by the Bulls to lead to a tying field goal at the end of regulation and then a fourth down conversion before the winning touchdown pass. Groves said while the defense played well, on this night it wasn't good enough.
"All the credit is due to South Florida," Groves said. "They've got a great team. They've got a lot of speed. They made plays when they needed to make plays. You can't take that away from them. We felt like we could have played better. We played with great effort but we didn't play with great alignment and assignment. We've got to go back Sunday and watch the film and get better from there."
Quentin Groves puts pressure on USF quarterback Matt Grothe.
In recent years Auburn has faced running quarterbacks and they have been a thorn in the side of the Tigers. Players such as Matthew Stafford from Georgia and Syvelle Newton from South Carolina dealt the Auburn defense fits with their legs. Saturday night USF's Matt Grothe may have been the best combination of running and passing the Tigers have seen in quite a while. Groves said the sophomore was everything they expected and more.
"He's a warrior I tell you that much," Groves said of Grothe. "We kept hitting him and hitting him and he kept bouncing back. He's a great quarterback and has a great future ahead of him. He's done a lot of great things for that program and he's going to continue to get better as the years go on."
Auburn now stands at a crossroads for the 2007 football season just two games in. Last year the Tigers won 11 games despite an offense that was anemic for much of the season. One of the reasons why was the Tigers didn't turn the ball over and played field position. Through two games this season that formula has been diluted as the Tigers have been plagued with turnovers from every direction.
Perhaps most disturbing is senior quarterback Brandon Cox has five miscues of his own. Counted on to be the calming influence on offense, instead Cox has struggled to get the job done. Because of that there are plenty of questions on offense for the Tigers but Groves said until they get things straight it's up to the defense to keep Auburn on track.
"If it calls for that then that's what we've got to do," Groves said. "When you come to college and get a scholarship they give you two jobs, to play football and go to school. If you're called upon as a defensive player to go out there and stop an offense then that's what you've got to do."