Auburn Defense Preparing For Challenge

Auburn sophomore defensive end Michael Goggans talks about getting ready for his first start in the Iron Bowl rivalry game.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's defense has been up and down this season with varying results. While the unit is still among the nation's best, allowing just 16.4 points per game (10th nationally), the Tigers have given up at least 17 points in four consecutive games heading into the Iron Bowl.

While that doesn't give much confidence, the fact that the most recent 17 points came against the potent Georgia Bulldogs and it could give the defense a reason to feel better about its performance. Sophomore end Michael Goggans notes that is the case.

"It gave us a little confidence," he says. "I would hear people around town saying we got a whole lot better and looked good. We didn't come out with a victory so it's never good enough. Overall we played better as a team, but we didn't play well enough to come out with a victory. It gave us a confidence boost and we should be ready to go."

Confidence also comes from the fact that Auburn should be closer to 100 percent on defense than it has been since midseason after having no game last week. That's a defense that was stifling at times early in the year, something Goggans says when healthy he feels like they can be once again.

"It means a lot," Goggans says in discussing the Tigers being healthier on defense. "We're just trying to get a lot of chemistry back like we started off at the beginning of the season. We've had a lot of injuries, but we're going to try to get everybody back. We're moving good now with our slants and things like that. Everything is going good."

A native of Alexander City, Goggans' former coach at Benjamin Russell High, Willie Carl Martin, is now on the staff at Alabama. With plenty of knowledge about the rivalry game, he says getting his first start in the series is something to remember.

"I'm very excited about it," Goggans says. "Just being from Alabama and being able to play the University of Alabama feels good. I'm just going to go out there with a high tempo and an urgency to play."

Auburn will need every healthy body available on defense as the Tigers prepare to face a physical Alabama offense led by a strong offensive line. Averaging 31.7 points and 198.5 yards per game on the ground, the Crimson Tide present a big challenge for a Tiger defense allowing 130.3 yards rushing per game. Goggans says that's what playing in the SEC and at Auburn is all about--facing a challenge.

"They've got one of the best offensive lines in the SEC," Goggans says. "This is going to be a tough test. They are fast and quick, but we've got a defensive line to match that intensity. It should be a good battle in the trenches.

"It's always a challenge for us to stop the run," he adds. "We've been kind of slacking in the past couple of games. We've been bothered by injuries and I don't want to use that as an excuse. We've basically got everybody back healthy. If we can go out there and stop the run I think we'll defeat them."

With six consecutive wins in the series, Auburn will be looking for number seven this Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Losers of four games by five points or less, the Tigers' season could have been much different if just a few breaks went the other way. Goggans says if things go Auburn's way on Saturday it would make a tough season much easier to deal with for his 5-6 team.

"We've come up short in a lot of games," Goggans says. "We know we have the potential to be a better team than what our record looks like. If we can go out there and win this game it would turn our whole season around."

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