Will Muschamp's unit allowed 304 yards offense to the Football Championship Sub-Division (I-AA) Golden Eagles, but Auburn's defense outscored the opposing offense in the 35-3 Homecoming victory.
"If you hold an opponent to three points, regardless of who it is, it's a good day," Muschamp explains. "I was pleased and I don't think we had any injuries. We went out and executed decent."
Auburn improved to 7-3 on the season, which is a half a world away from the 1-2 start. The defense has played generally well all season and Muschamp says he feels good about things heading into upcoming games against his alma mater Georgia on Nov. 10 and then Iron Bowl against Alabama on Nov. 24.
"I feel good," he explains. "It's the two biggest rivals with Georgia and Alabama and it's what you come to coach here for--to play and coach in those games. I'm looking forward to it."
The Tigers got bit in the run game on options and zone reads, but forced more turnovers (four) than they allowed points (three). They also came up with six of their own on a Walter McFadden 93-yard pick six.
The Golden Eagles got down to the Auburn nine-yard line and could have made the score 28-10 in the fourth quarterback, but McFadden sat on the slant, picked off a Lee Sweeney pass and capped off the score with a Deion Sanders-like dance in the end zone.
"They completed two already and they lined up in the same formation," Muschamp says of the play. "Walt made a good read on the play, broke down on the ball and made a nice play.
"I didn't see it," Muschamp adds of the dance. "I know it got is 15 yards and the way we cover kicks, that isn't good."
Auburn also got an interception by Jerraud Powers on a wheel route intended for the fullback. The Tigers also forced and recovered a pair of fumbles.
Tennessee Tech, which runs so many different schemes and personnel from the four-wide spread attack to the wishbone option, had 168 yards passing and 136 rushing. However, the Tigers also used a full load of personnel on the defensive side.
Overall, Muschamp played five defensive ends (not including Quentin Groves, who started at linebacker), five defensive tackles, seven linebackers, six cornerbacks and three safeties.
"It looked like (freshman middle linebacker) Josh Bynes stepped up and made some plays," Muschamp notes. "(Junior weakside linebacker) Merrill Johnson was good and it was good to get him back in the fold a little bit more and let him play a little bit. The front guys, I wish we could have gotten better penetration up front and we could have gotten some better pressure on the passer."
Bynes and fellow freshman Michael McNeil were the team leaders in tackles with six apiece. Bynes also had two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. Johnson, who has missed most of the season with strained rotator cuff, had five tackles including four solos.
Freshman safety Zac Etheridge did not play, but sophomore Aairon Savage returned to action and played most of the game at safety--alongside Eric Brock for most of the first half and McNeil in the second.
Savage and the defense gang tackle a Golden Eagle.
"Zac could have played, but we decided to hold him," Muschamp says. "He's just got a bad hip and a bad shoulder, and we should have held Eric a little bit more. It's just good to be able to rest some of those guys and not get them as many snaps.
"It was good to get (Savage) back," he adds. "It's been a disappointing year for him because of the injury. He had a severe MCL sprain and he needed to get back in the fold."
Groves was used a few times on third and long from his old defensive end spot with a hand on the ground. Over the last two years though he has also played standing up and covering mostly in the flats while still lining up on the outside of the line. In a different but similar role, Groves got the start at strongside linebacker. Muschamp notes that the only big difference is that he was lined up a little farther inside than usual in this role.
"It's not as drastic of a change as everybody seems to have made it," he explains. "He played it in the Mississippi State game, the South Florida game, the Kansas State game, and then he got injured so he hasn't played as much. We put him at linebacker for a couple of practices and all of a sudden everybody thinks he's a linebacker. He's been playing linebacker for us.
"He's played well," Muschamp continues. "We hadn't played him in stack linebacker as much off the line of scrimmage. We've played him as an overhang-backer. He did well. He's practiced well, he's a good athlete, he's smart and he's able to retain and he did the things we wanted him to do."