Auburn, Ala.--It's hard to take positives out of a loss sometimes but for the Auburn defense, looking back on the loss to South Florida is full of disappointment but also hope for the 2007 season.
Playing without starters Aairon Savage and Tray Blackmon to start with, starters Merrill Johnson and Jonathan Wilhite both left in the first half against the Bulls, leaving several players to pick up the slack. That they did and more as Auburn's defense kept the Tigers in the game until the very end after as they allowed no points after five turnovers by the offense. Veteran Josh Thompson said the night was one that had its ups and downs as the Tigers get ready for Mississippi State this week.
"We had a good night but winning a football game is about all three phases," Thompson said. "We could have done some things better. The offense could have done some things better as well as the kicking game. We all had little mistakes and they took advantage of it.
"Every time we went on the field I told the guys ‘they haven't scored yet'," Thompson added. "We just went out there and stopped them. They didn't get any points off it (the turnovers). I think they missed three or four field goals. We just kept sawing and coming after them.
"I think that's pretty much the first time we've done that since I've been here. That's a big step for us, a big confidence boost for us. It's just all about playing hard. We were out there playing hard and never gave up. We got some good push on the field goal block. It's a good thing but in the end we still came up short. It's good from the defense. We've learned from everything that has gone on but that is one of the positives."
The one drawback from the South Florida game defensively was a lack of turnovers caused by the Tigers. After forcing three turnovers against Kansas State in the season opener, Auburn wasn't as productive against the Bulls. Thompson said that's something the Tigers have to improve on because it could have meant the difference between winning and losing last week.
"We had a couple of chances to get some interceptions and you always have a chance to strip the ball," Thompson said. "We just didn't do it. That hurt us a little bit. If we would have had two or three turnovers that probably would have changed the game totally. Some nights are like that. We'll preach it and try to get better at it."
This week the job of the defense doesn't get any easier as the Tigers face a Mississippi State Bulldog team with a strong defense of its own. That means much like the first two weeks, Auburn's defense likely won't have the option of allowing many points and Auburn still winning the football game. Thompson said that's not something he's concerned with because he believes the Tigers are going to play much better in week three and aren't concerned at all with the past.
"I think the offense has got its footing," Thompson said. "They've got some things to learn and some kinks to work out but the mindset of the defense is to keep going out and plugging, to keep sawing. We're going to keep our same mindset whether we win or lose. We just go out there and play our hardest and whatever happens, happens.
"Some of the young guys haven't ever been through this," Thompson added. "I think all of us older guys have been through a loss. You just have to move on and know the SEC is what we're really pushing for. We just have to keep a positive attitude towards that."