Auburn's Montravius Adams sets his sights on Dak Prescott
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's defense responded to a call for action from coordinator Will Muschamp in practice last week, and the results showed up in improved play Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers' defense came back from an uneven effort at LSU with a better performance against Mississippi State, though the game ended in a 17-9 loss to the Bulldogs.
Linebackers coach Lance Thompson said Muschamp's message was delivered loud and clear.
"This week in practice it was challenge week," Thompson said on the Auburn radio network. "Will did a good job of confronting them and accessing where they were last week (after LSU). We don't want to play that style of ball. That's not what we represent here at Auburn. The kids responded well to that."
Muschamp's message included a shakeup in the starting lineup, one that included two true freshmen starting in the secondary and new starting linebackers. Most everybody was rotated in as the game played out.
"I thought everybody competed well. In that respect, the kids did a nice job," Thompson said.
Coach Gus Malzahn said the defense did its part. "Coach Muschamp and his staff challenged our guys to play hard, and they played extremely hard," he said.
Mississippi State failed to convert its last seven third-down situations and converted only 4-of-12 in the game. Auburn held the Bulldogs to three points in the second half, giving the Tigers a chance.
"Will made some great adjustments at halftime... but in this game, you win as a team and lose as a team," Thompson said.
State rushed for only 56 yards, a lower total than what LSU running back Leonard Fournette had on the first play in Baton Rouge the previous week, but quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 270 yards. Forty one of State's 62 plays were passes.
"Hopefully, we can take away the positives and improve on the negatives," Thompson said.
Auburn will likely have to play more run defense when San Jose State rolls into Jordan-Hare for the Tigers' homecoming game next Saturday at 3 p.m. Spartans' running back Tyler Ervin rushed for 300 yards, the best in big-time football this season, in a 49-23 win over Fresno State late Saturday night.
Defensive end Montravius Adams says he's ready for whatever comes Auburn's way.
"We're not going to panic. We're going to go out every week and try to win. That's our mentality," Adams said.
LSU scored 45 on Auburn in Baton Rouge. Defensive back Jonathan Jones took that into last week's practice.
"We had to take pride in ourselves and start over from scratch in our effort. We wanted to prove we could play defense," Jones said. "We're heading in the right direction. Obviously, we're not there yet."
Another defensive back, Blake Countess, agreed.
"The outcome wasn't what we wanted, but we did take a step forward," he said.
Next up, San Jose State.
"The focus," Countess said, "will be on Auburn and it will always be on Auburn."
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Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine