Blackmon, Tigers Come Close to Shutout

Sophomore linebacker Tray Blackmon and the Auburn defense held Ole Miss without a touchdown.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn linebacker Tray Blackmon couldn't stop smiling or thanking the Lord after Auburn's 17-3 win over Ole Miss Saturday night.

Blackmon was Auburn's leading tackler in the game, posting nine tackles, four of them unassisted.

"I thank God; I give God all the glory and praise," Blackmon said. "If it wasn't for Him, none of this would be possible. Being down a couple of weeks and coming back and being able to play--I just thank God that I was able to come back and play."

It was a sweet night for Blackmon, who has persevered through personal and team disappointments and difficulties. Last year, Blackmon missed games after breaking team rules and being arrested for DUI. This year, Blackmon was determined to put the past behind him. He had matured, repented and cleaned up his act.

But half way into the season-opener against Kansas State, Blackmon was benched again--this time with a sprained ankle suffered on an interception return. He sat out the second half of that game and the next three games. Still gimpy, he returned to play against Florida and recorded two tackles in Auburn's win in The Swamp, but the same ankle sprain benched him the following week when the Tigers hosted Vanderbilt.

He returned to action at Arkansas, where he recorded nine tackles, six of them unassisted. Last week at LSU, he made three tackles.

Saturday night against Ole Miss he was at it again, leading the charge on a defense that held Ole Miss to just a field goal the entire game.

In all, the Tigers' defense gave up just 70 yards rushing and 123 passing yards to the Rebels.

"I feel like the effort was definitely good and the execution of the plays was good," he said. "It was a good night, man. We just had faith and kept grinding. We kept wanting to win and wanting to get to the quarterback. We kept making plays and executing the defense and we had a good night."

Blackmon said it was a dirty battle between the two teams. There were 14 penalties in all with each team getting flagged seven times apiece for a total loss of 117 yards. "Oh yeah, oh yeah, it was a dogfight," he said with a grin. "But you've got to kind of expect those games. This is the SEC.

Last week, Auburn suffered a heartbreaking loss at No. 5 LSU when the Bengals made an almost unbelievable game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone with a second to play. Blackmon said Auburn's defense was devastated, but determined not to let that loss cause another one.

"I really felt like we gave a pretty good effort last week," he said. "The main thing that we learned from that loss is that we're a family and we stick together through the wins and the losses. All you can do is take the good with the bad and forget about it and get prepared for next week.

"You don't want to let that game affect the next game, or you'll let that game make you lose two for one," he added. "We just grew as a family, not just as a defense, but as a team. We grew closer and pulled each other up because in the end, we're all we've got."

Before he walked through the fire--before the arrest and the suspension and the ankle injury--Blackmon said he wouldn't have turned to God and maybe not even his teammates for strength.

Now, he does. He's different now, he said--in every way. "Everything happens for a reason," he said. "God put me through everything I've been through to get me closer to Him and to help me find Him through all my trouble and all my heartaches and so I just thank him and give praise to him. I just try to go out and give it my all, give it my best, because you never know when it will be your last play.

"I never would have thought I'd be out after the first half of the first game after coming back so I have to stay humble, stay hungry and keep doing what I'm doing--going out there giving it all I've got."

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