Auburn-ASU Notebook: Tigers own the red zone

Sep 8, 2013


Craig Sanders celebrates a big play in Saturday's win over Arkansas State (Todd Van Emst photo)

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's defense didn't give up a touchdown for the first time in almost two years in Saturday's 38-9 victory over Arkansas State. Co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Charlie Harbison saluted Auburn players for making happen, but he said much work remains to be done.

The Tigers yielded 422 yards offense, including 272 through the air.

"Basically, what we are trying to do is make sure we don't give up space in coverage," Harbison said. "Evidently, we didn't do a good enough job, because they got the ball in the red zone. But we tightened up. We made some things happen."

The Tigers stopped Arkansas twice on fourth-and-short in their own territory and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter. They put serious heat on Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy and got two sacks and an eye-popping 21 quarterback hurries. They had 13 tackles for loss.

Harbison said the defensive line was often dominant.

"I give a lot of credit to Rodney (Garner)," Harbison said. "He has those guys playing. Whenever you make the quarterback move his feet, good things can happen. All the guys played hard. We gave up some yardage, but we came out with a win."
--Phillip Marshall

Top defensive performances

Senior Auburn cornerback Chris Davis had one of the top games of his career against the Red Wolves. He had 10 tackles, seven of them solo, and 1.5 tackles for losses. He forced a fumble and broke up two passes.

Defensive end LaDarius Owens didn't start, but he had eight tackles and a quarterback hurry. Weakside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy had eight tackles and two quarterback hurries. Middle linebacker Jake Holland had six tackles, recovered a fumble and had a quarterback hurry.

Defensive end Craig Sanders had four tackles, half a sack and three quarterback hurries. Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson had half a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. Defensive tackles Ben Bradley and Montravius Adams had three quarterback hurries apiece. Defensive end Carl Lawson forced a fumble.
--Phillip Marshall

Familiar faces in Auburn-Arkansas State

If there were secrets, somebody had to concoct them really fast. The 13 former Arkansas State staffers who now work in Auburn football surely knew a lot about their Saturday night opponent in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

And vice versa.

"The fact that we knew a lot about those guys and they knew a lot about us, that is always a challenge," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, who was Arkansas State's head coach just last season.

Auburn coaches visited with their Arkansas State counterparts before the game. After, Malzahn and the coaches talked to the players.

"It was pretty emotional," Malzahn said. "It was a pretty interesting deal when you coach against a team that you're close to players. They have some great kids over there. Great competitors. It was interesting, but it was good to see those guys. I wished them nothing but the best going forward."
-- Charles Goldberg

Frost hit with targeting call

Late in the third quarter, Auburn linebacker leveled Kennedy on a hard pass rush. Kennedy got the ball away anyway, but Frost was called for roughing the passer and targeting, meaning he was ejected from the game.

Unless the Southeastern Conference decides it is not warranted, he will have to sit out the first half of next Saturday's game against Mississippi State.

"It will be reviewed," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "We'll see what happens."
--Phillip Marshall

An unusual night for penalties

Auburn was called for holding seven times in Saturday night's game. One of those calls was on a kickoff return and another a 39-yard Davis punt return. One was declined. The Tigers finished with nine penalties for 91 yards. Those are numbers Malzahn said are unacceptable and will be dealt with. Arkansas State was called for holding three times, but Auburn declined all three penalties.

But the strangest penalties came at the start of each half.

Arkansas State was penalized 15 yards after the opening kickoff and half the distance to the goal after the second-half kickoff because the gray jerseys they wore lacked contrast. The numbers were virtually impossible to see from above.

Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State's first-year head coach, said he knew the penalties were coming.

"I knew about it," Harsin said. "That was my decision. I think it was something for our team, and that was the decision I made. I would not change it."

He did not elaborate on why the jerseys were important enough to give up two major penalties to wear them.
--Phillip Marshall

Playing a lot of players

Auburn had a nice lead in the second half, and that gave the Tigers a chance to play a lot of reserves.

"That is what we are trying to do, trying to get some depth there and keep our guys fresh. And I feel like our guys were fairly fresh in the second half," Malzahn said.

The participation list compiled immediately after the game showed 58 Tigers played.
-- Charles Goldberg

The pass-and-catch took plenty of work

Malzahn credited more than a good Nick Marshall throw for a 68-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates.

"It was a well-executed play," Gus Malzahn said. "The line did a good job on their blocks and we got the safety down.

"He ran a really good route at the top and it was a really good throw. That's what it is supposed to look like."

Marshall hit Coates in stride in the middle of the field. He easily outran the defender.
 -- Charles Goldberg

Spreading the ball around

Seven different receivers caught passes for Auburn Saturday night. H-back Jay Prosch caught the most with three for 31 yards. Trovon Reed caught two for 24 yards and Marcus Davis two for 23. Sammie Coates caught just one, but it was the biggest. He got behind the secondary and gathered in a throw from quarterback Nick Marshall and took it in for the touchdown.
--Phillip Marshall

Malzahn's winning streak

Malzahn is on a personal nine-game winning streak. He won his last seven games at Arkansas State last season and is 2-0 in his first season at Auburn.
--Phillip Marshall

Jonathan Wallace wins playing time, praise

Reserve quarterback Jonathan Wallace got in for a few plays relatively early, then finished up the game.

"He's  a very good quarterback within his own right. We just felt like we wanted to give him a package right there and keep him involved," Gus Malzahn said. "He did an excellent job when he was in there. Jonathan is a very solid quarterback."
-- Charles Goldberg

Mississippi State romps to easy win

Mississippi State, Auburn's opponent in next Saturday's SEC opener, blew out FCS foe Alcorn State 51-7 in Starkville on Saturday without starting quarterback Tyler Russell.

Russell suffered a concussion in a season-opening 21-3 loss at Oklahoma State. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. Ashton Shumpert rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Griffin had 54 yards and a touchdown.

Washington State, which lost 31-24 to Auburn in the season-opener, shocked No. 25 USC 10-7 Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
--Phillip Marshall

Also...

• Malzahn said during last week that safety Justin Garrett and defensive end Dee Ford  were practicing, but they didn't play.

"We will see how they are next week," Malzahn said.

• Auburn knew next Saturday's SEC opener against Mississippi State would be at 6 p.m. on one of the ESPN networks. It found a home Saturday night. It'll be on ESPN2.
-- Charles Goldberg

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: