Defense Searching For Answers

The Tigers couldn't stop Arkansas on the ground in a 38-17 loss Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--When you allow 426 rushing yards in a game there is a lot of blame to go around and the Auburn Tigers are no different in that respect. Following Saturday's 38-17 dismantling at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks, everyone from coach Tommy Tuberville on down took the blame for the poor performance out of a group that was thought to be the strength of the team heading into the season.

"It was the defensive line, the linebackers and the safeties," coordinator Gene Chizik said of the problem area on defense. "It was all nine of them. Not one position, not anybody, it was all of them. But once again I'm going to say that was all on me. I just flat-out did not get the job done today. I need to fix that in a hurry.

"They came off the football and knocked us off the ball a little bit. We had some people that weren't in the right positions once the play unfolded. We didn't make tackles when we needed to make tackles. It was just an all-around terrible defensive day as everyone can see. It's nobody's fault but mine. That's on me."

Spencer Johnson, Tommy Jackson and company stop Fred Talley for one of the few short gains of the day for the speedster. He finished the day with 241 yards rushing on just 21 carries.

The defense didn't get any favors early from an Auburn offense that was in self-destruct mode. With three turnovers that gave the Hogs excellent field position, the Tigers couldn't get a stop on running back Fred Talley and company and that signaled the beginning of trouble for the unit. With a five minute disadvantage in time of possession in the first quarter alone, the defneders looked as if they couldn't get their wind back and that was all the Razorbacks needed to step on the gas in the running game.

"The bottom line is you're at home and we feel like at home in this stadium you don't let anyone come in here and do that to you," running backs coach Eddie Gran said following the game. "It was a tough deal. We played hard but we didn't execute and we didn't get it done. The turnovers killed us. Three turnovers and all three of them turned into points for them. You can't turn the football over. We've won games because we are better in the turnover ratio than the other teams. In this one we weren't and that's why we lost the football game."

While the turnovers were costly, the defense still couldn't stop Talley and company. Giving up 220 rushing yards in just the first half, including a late 80-yard touchdown run by Talley that took the wind out of the Auburn sails after they had fought back to take a three-point lead, defensive end Reggie Torbor said this was all on the defense.

"It was us," Torbor said. "Coach Tuberville is a good leader and he looks out for us, but it's on the defense. We gave up too many yards today and it showed in the score. It's embarrassing and it hurts. You work all week for something it's supposed to hurt. If it didn't hurt then you don't care about it. They could have rushed for 20 yards and if we lost it would still hurt. It's embarrassing."

After working all week on the option from Jones, the Tigers were greeted by an Arkansas team that was very similarly game planned to Syracuse and Alabama last season. Using the cutback lanes to make the speed of the Auburn defense work against them, the Hogs and Talley repeatedly killed the Tigers with big gains. Fullback Mark Pierce even got into the action with a 44-yard touchdown run on a fourth and one when Auburn stacked the line of scrimmage. He broke against the grain and before anyone could react he was diving into the end zone for six points.

"People that are quick can find holes and cut through our defense," Torbor said. "Our defense is so fast a lot of times we overrun the play and people cut it back behind us. It's just a big problem we have with being aggressive."

Now the Tigers have to regroup after the disappointing outing Saturday and travel to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators next Saturday night. With last season's struggle down the stretch still fresh on everyone's mind, defensive tackle Demarco McNeil said that it's up to the leaders of this team to get the ship righted.

"We have to rely on our leadership," he noted. "The juniors and seniors are going to have to pick this team up. This loss hurts, but it's not the end of the season. We'll live with this loss for a day or two but then we have to get ready for Florida."


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