Etheridge And Auburn D Come Up Short

Auburn safety Zac Etheridge talks about the loss to Arkansas.

Auburn, Ala.--Arkansas came into Saturday's game as one of the worst scoring teams in the country and left looking like a juggernaut as the Razorbacks rolled up 416 yards of total offense and 25 points in a victory over the Auburn Tigers. What had been the backbone of the Auburn team this season, the defense allowed huge days to running back Michael Smith and quarterback Casey Dick in the loss.

Despite being small in stature Smith was a man among boys on Saturday as he gained 176 yards on 35 attempts. Included in that was a 68-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Razorbacks a lead they would never relinquish. Auburn sophomore safety Zac Etheridge says it makes the loss even tougher knowing the defense gave up so much to the Hawgs on offense.

"We pride ourselves on stopping the run," Etheridge says. "They got a big play and that big play late in the game really hurt us. That's something we've got to come back and work on. Other than that we did good. They just killed us on the pass more than the run."

From a numbers standpoint Etheridge is correct. Despite throwing two interceptions, one of which came in Auburn's red zone, Dick had a day to remember as he completed 17-32 passes for 222 yards in the win. Etheridge says they just couldn't stop something that Bobby Petrino is known for and he did it time and time again in an effort to slow down Auburn‘s pass rush.

"They were just running a lot of crossing routes," Etheridge says. "We were in zone coverage. We missed a couple of tackles and they had big plays.

"It wasn't that we were struggling getting pressure, they were throwing little quick routes," he adds. "Other than that we've just got to execute on the back end."

Auburn has been a team in turmoil this week with the firing of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin on Wednesday. Etheridge says that wasn't a distraction as far as he's concerned though and he notes it played no part in the play of the defense. It obviously bothered the offense though and that in turn affected the play of Paul Rhoads' unit.

In the first half Auburn's offense ran just 22 plays for 53 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes. That used up just 8:56 off the game clock, leaving the defense on the field for over 21 minutes. Going into the fourth quarter the numbers were just as skewed with Arkansas holding a 29:46-15:14 time of possession advantage. Etheridge says that didn't play into things though because the defense is prepared to handle that.

"I don't think we got worn down," Etheridge says. "As a defense we take pride in being on the field every play. We like going out there. We enjoy going out there. We just had to execute. They got some points early in the game and we just had to settle and try to stop them a little bit. Obviously we didn't get the job done."

In his postgame press conference coach Tommy Tuberville said he told the team they will find out what they're made of now after dealing with the adversity of the moment. Etheridge says that's all you can do is bounce back but he admits it won't be easy to do this week.

"Everybody is hurting," Etheridge says. "Everybody is down about it. The only thing you can do is put this one behind you and keep moving. Everybody is going to hurt and this loss really hurts bad."

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