"They weren't doing anything that we didn't practice," says Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers. "We gave up two plays where it was just busted coverage on our part. A couple of others they made a heck of a play. We should have made a play on the ball, and that's been our thing all year. We haven't been making plays back there in the secondary. They made the plays tonight and we didn't."
That seemed to be the same tone when Auburn gave up 30 points in a loss to LSU in October. But the fact remains that good passing attacks have exploited the deep corners against a good trio of Tiger cornerbacks--Powers, Jonathan Wilhite and Patrick Lee.
"It was just we didn't make the plays," Powers notes. "That's what football comes down to--knowing your assignment and making a play on the ball. Coach (Will) Muschamp, the only thing he can do is put you in position to make plays, and it's your job to make the play."
Whether it was Mohamed Massaquoi running all alone down field for 58 yards, Sean Bailey making a play against an Auburn corner for 45 yards or Matthew Stafford finding Bailey free for a crucial third-conversion, the big plays in the pass game opened up the run, which the Tigers had defended so well of late.
"When they hit the big plays on us down the field in the secondary, it hurt our defense as a whole," Powers explains. "When we work so hard on first and second down to get them backed up, then it's third and long and they hit a big play on us through the air it hurts you emotionally on defense.
"The one Massaquoi caught, the first one, we busted that coverage and then I think Bailey caught one, not the touchdown, but a diving-type catch. We busted that one, too."
Powers, one of the more instinctive players on the AU team, came up with what appeared to be a crucial interception of Stafford on the Bulldogs' first possession of the second half. It was the only big mistake by the young and extremely talented QB.
"At halftime everybody was talking about that we needed some turnovers," Powers says of his pick. "I had a feeling it was going to come my way because Stafford believes in his arm. He's got a strong arm and he's confident in it. He'll try to stick it in there. We were playing cover-2 and I widened the number one receiver off the plain and sort of was just reading Stafford and sitting back in my zone. He threw it right to me."
The Tigers tied the game at 17 following Powers' pick and then took the lead on the next possession 20-17, before the Bulldogs took the Auburn defense to the woodshed.
"I don't know what it was," Powers says. "We came out in the second half and we started fast. We got a turnover and we put some points on the board. We were stopping the run pretty good and they hit a couple of big plays down the field."
Stafford had just 11 completions but finished with 237 yards and a pair of TD tosses.