"You work so hard and shutouts are hard to come by," Rhoads stated, noting why he was pleased with the opening night performance. "Anytime you can walk away with one, you feel pretty good about yourselves."
Rhoads noted the credit for the ninth shutout of the Tommy Tuberville Era at Auburn goes to the players. "I didn't make a single tackle," he said.
"We hustled around really, really well," he noted, saying there was just one play in the game in which the coaching video detected "a loaf" when three players didn't go full speed on that particular done.
Rhoads has been preaching tackling since he arrived for spring training and saw improvement from the preseason scrimmages in that area, but he still isn't satisfied.
"I thought we tackled decent, not great, and if you are going to be a great defense you have got to tackle great," he said. "We missed eight tackles as a unit and eight tackles is too many. It was spread out amongst a number of guys and they were all fundamentals we can correct and coach as we continue to teach."
Head coach Tommy Tuberville said the play of the defensive front was encouraging. Rhoads agrees.
"I think they played well," the defensive coordinator said. "We limited them from a pressure standpoint on the quarterback from a pass-rush standpoint because a lot of calls we played were to stop the run. Some of that play-pass and pass action on first and second down we didn't give them a real fair advantage to get after the quarterback because of where they were located, but they held their gaps good.
"We have to get off blocks better as it goes along," he added. "They tackled good and I thought their effort was outstanding."
Rhoads said during preparations for the opener last week that he planned to substitute heavily in the opener and was true to his word.
"When you go in the fourth quarter, you want to be as fresh as you can be and playing more people obviously yields to that and also the last third of the season," he said on Sunday. "If you wear your kids out the first eight games of the year playing them too many snaps, you are going to be tired that last third of the season.
"And the second component to that is just morale," he said. "You have got a group that are so-called twos that practice just as hard and then work just as hard as the ones. If they are able, we want to get them on the field and reward them for that and keep their morale at a high level. We were fortunate enough to do that this first one."
In other news and notes:
*Freshman cornerback Neiko Thorpe led the Tigers in tackles with seven and played extensively. Another freshman cornerback, D'Antoine Hood, played in the second half.
"I thought you could see them growing up during the game," said Rhoads, who noted the two got "invaluable experience" as second stringers. "They were physical, they didn't back down from anything. They made some mistakes, certainly, but they got their feet wet fast."
*Michael Goggans was named the coaching staff's defensive player of the game in his first start. Rhoads noted that cornerbacks Walt McFadden and Jerraud Powers performed well as did end Antonio Coleman. Rhoads grades players on a production point system with points subtracted for missed assignment and missed tackles.
*Another area the coach wants to see improved is communication by his defensive players, which was a problem at times with the sellout crowd being loud.
*Rhoads noted that the first touchdown came on a "textbook" play by Coleman using one arm to sack the quarterback and the other to punch the ball away from him allowing Goggans to pick up the touchdown on the scoop and score drill.
*The Tigers are expected to face an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offensive system in week two with Southern Miss coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Golden Eagles racked up 633 yards of total offense in coasting past Louisiana-LaFayette 51-21 on Saturday.