Sept. 16, 2013
Robenson Therezie puts a big hit on Mississippi State's LaDarius Perkins (Todd Van Emst photo)
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has a lot to feel good about, but what he calls "trash yardage plays" are giving him heartburn.
The Tigers are 3-0 after last Saturday's 24-20 victory over Mississippi State. The defense has given up just one second-half touchdown and not a single point in the fourth quarter. But those plays that get away must go away, Johnson said Sunday.
"We continue to have these trash yardage plays. A couple of times it was a missed assignment, one time a missed tackle. Another time, quite frankly, I think it was great execution by Mississippi State."
Those plays have shown up in each of the three games. Johnson said they have to be dealt with as the Tigers prepare for next Saturday's game at No. 6 LSU.
"There are a lot of things we have to get better at, a lot of things we have to clean up," Johnson said. "Some of the things are being repeated, and that's the only frustration. Some were new formations and things they did we had to get adjusted to."
They got adjusted in the second half and stopped Mississippi State on six consecutive possessions.
"The main thing is we got them aware of the formations. We were talking to them as we were going through series. There were probably about three formations we hadn't seen. There were a couple of formations we worked on that we just didn't handle well. We had to get those straightened up. Once we did, we probably were more aggressive the second half."
Johnson turns to Mark Twain for wisdom
Johnson turned to famed author Mark Twain to explain his defense's fourth-quarter success.
"It's really been kind of weird," Johnson said. I think Mark Twain said there are lies, damned lies and statistics. I'm starting to think that way. We are sitting up there in the top three or four in scoring defense and way at the bottom in total defense.
"It goes back to the trash yardage. We are making some dumb mistakes, but then our guys are really playing well in some pressure situations. The fourth-quarter thing, credit Coach Malzahn. I think he has put some confidence and an attitude in these guys that they are determined they are going to play through adversity and finish games."
Auburn too sloppy, says Rhett Lashlee
There were two interceptions, though Rhett Lashlee is only counting one of them, and a fumbled exchange ended with a touchdown pass.
Auburn's offensive coordinator could look past some of Nick Marshall's mistakes in Saturday's 24-20 win over Mississippi State, maybe because Marshall led the Tigers on a long game-winning drive that ended with touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left.
Lashlee said one of the interceptions -- a Hail Mary that ended the first half -- didn't hurt. But Lashlee still found some mistakes he couldn't overlook.
"The one thing that we can't do is be sloppy, and that's really probably the thing I'm most disappointed with," Lashlee said Sunday. "We cleaned the penalties up last game, but we're still too sloppy."
-- Charles Goldberg
Nick Marshall-to-Nick Marshall? 'We work that every day'
Yes, Rhett Lashlee knows how to play the game. He said that Nick Marshall-to-Nick Marshall 37-yard pass completion Saturday, via a ricocheted pass off a safety, was part of the game plan.
"Yeah, we work that every day in practice," he joked.
But does he have one of those flash cards to signal that play in?
"Just throw it to yourself," he said.
-- Charles Goldberg
Kiehl Frazier goes round and round
Kiehl Frazier, the quarterback turned safety, has turned back into Auburn's Wildcat quarterback, or at least he took a direct snap three times against Mississippi State.
"'Hey, let's get him involved a little bit,'" Rhett Lashlee said.
Frazier was Auburn's wildcat quarterback in 2011 for then-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. He started five games as the regular quarterback last year.
"Early last week we just decided on a couple of plays, kind of like we did with Jonathan (Wallace) the week before."
-- Charles Goldberg
Elijah Daniel works inside and outside
Freshman defensive end Elijah Daniel lined at tackle in some pass rush situations against Mississippi State, Johnson said that will continue to be an option.
"If we put our very, very best four pass rushers, he's probably one of the best inside guys," Johnson said. "He's physical enough to play one-on-one with the guards we got to play against, but he's quick enough and fast enough and explosive enough to run the twists and get outside and control the quarterback and other things that our big tackles sometimes struggle with."
Johnson wouldn't rule out the possibility of Daniel one day becoming a full-time defensive tackle.
"I think right now he's still a defensive end," Johnson said, "but if he gets much, much bigger and stronger he can be a dynamic 3-technique."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: