Big Plays By Defense Help Achieve Road Win

Tiger coaches and players discuss their 31-24 SEC victory at Ole Miss.

Oxford, Miss.--Auburn turned the ball over just once in its 31-24 victory in Oxford. The Tigers intercepted Eli Manning three times. Head coach Tommy Tuberville said that was a major key to Auburn's victory on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

On a day with lots of big plays from both the offense and defense, the three interceptions by Travaris Robinson, Horace Willis and Carlos Rogers were definitely big for the Tigers. Their position coach, Gene Chizik, is also the defensive coordinator. While saying he was happy with the interceptions, he noted that he was not satisfied.

"We had a couple of others that we should have got," said Chizik, who is in his first season with the Tigers after coming to AU in January from Central Florida. The defensive coordinator was obviously disappointed that the Tigers couldn't keep up their first half level of performance. In the first two quarters, the Rebels managed just 90 total yards before getting hot in the second half to finish with 358 for the day.

Chizik did note that there is a positive to be gained by the third and final turnover coming with 1:32 to play in the end zone to preserve the victory when Robinson picked off Eli Manning. "I think that helps," he said of the defensive stop. "You are down in a hole and playing against one of the best quarterbacks in the country. You have got your backs to the wall and you have got to make a play.

Jay Ratliff, a sophomore defensive end, pressures Eli Manning.

"We did that a couple of other times, too, when the game was getting real close when we had to have plays," Chizik adds. "Three times we got interceptions against a guy who just doesn't throw you the ball."

Junior defensive tackle Spencer Johnson was able to go at game time and got in his first significant game action since Auburn's last trip to Mississippi more than a month ago when the Tigers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Johnson got a sack on Manning and also pressured him before limping off the field in the second quarter.

"His addition to the defensive line this week helped," Chizik says. "As a whole at times we got some good pressure, at times we didn't."

Johnson notes that he was thrilled to be back in action. "It was killing me to be on the sidelines," the junior tackle says. "It had been three or four games since I had been out there and had a chance to make a difference for our team by getting some pass rush or making a tackle when we needed to make a tackle."

Johnson says the Tigers have done a good job of bouncing back from the heart-breaking overtime loss at Florida. "We are taking these last games like they are a new season," he says. "We are trying to go undefeated these last few games and to get back to where we started to go--winning the SEC West."

Fellow junior Reggie Torbor says he was glad to see Johnson back in the lineup. "He means a lot to us because he is just so good. We really miss his presence when he is not on the field. We also miss his leadership when he can't play."

Torbor says the Tigers are excited about the final three games that include rivalry contests vs. Georgia and Alabama following homecoming vs. Louisiana-Monroe. "Beating Ole Miss keeps us in the SEC race and makes the remaining games even more important," he notes.

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