Oct. 6, 2013
Stop there: Auburn's Gabe Wright sacks Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Gabe Wright wasn't sure where it came from. Maybe it was the media or Tre Mason or maybe just locker room talk.
But Auburn had heard Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said the Tigers had only the third best defense in Alabama, and the Tigers wanted to prove him wrong.
Auburn did with six sacks, a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown and general tough play with the game on the line en route to a 30-22 win Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Wright, Dee Ford and Carl Lawson each had two sacks, and the six total sacks were the most for Auburn since sacking Alabama 11 times in 2005. Don't stop there. Auburn defenders were credited with 14 tackles for a loss. Robenson Therezie had the interception for a touchdown and Ryan Smith had an interception, too.
Auburn's defense had to be on the field for 89 plays, but survived, thanks, maybe, to a little extra motivation when the Tigers' defense may have been questioned.
Who said what?
"I don't listen to the media, but I heard it from the media," smiled Wright.
Or he heard it from Tre Mason. "Tre was going around the hotel all day today."
Or, "it's locker room talk."
Or maybe more detective work was needed.
"Google it," Wright said.
No matter. Auburn played its best on defense as the Tigers built a 27-9 lead, and then after watching Ole Miss close to within 27-22. In the final three series, the Rebels had three plays for 3 yards and an interception; three plays for 0 yards and a punt; and six plays for 3 yards, ending with consecutive sacks that all but ended the game.
The motivated Tigers finished strong.
"I think he gave us some fire tonight," Lawson said. "We were hyped up about that."
But who did Lawson hear it from? "I heard it from Gabe."
The he said-he said was entertaining enough after the game, but the game itself was physical, whether it was a senior such as Ford making the stop or a freshman such as Lawson sacking Ole Miss' final hope.
"I knew we needed another stop," Lawson said. "Coach told me to go out there and pin my ears back and go for the quarterback, and that's what I did.
"We have a lot of potential. We just need to fix the little things."
"Carl," said coach Gus Malzahn, "is starting to grow up, and really put a lot of pressure on the quarterback."
"Carl," said Wright, "is a man-child."
Auburn shook up its defensive line during the week by moving Nosa Eguae from defensive end to starting defensive tackle, and then announced before the game that Wright would start over Ben Bradley.
The plan seemed to pay immediate dividends.
"We play a lot of guys, and there were some big plays when we needed it in the fourth quarter. Putting pressure on the quarterback, that was huge," Malzahn said.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson called the six sacks "fantastic."
"I thought our front really was a huge factor in the game, especially when the game kind of got in a complexion where they had to throw more often than they usually do. They did a good job against the run game, too."
Wright said the plan was to take away the run game to make Ole Miss one dimensional. Then, said Eguae, the defensive tackles wanted to force Wallace to stay in the pocket.
"We kept them in the pocket so those guys could make those plays, so that's huge," Eguae said. "Anytime you're in that last-drive situation, that's what you live for. That's what you do the summers for; that's why you do the drills in the spring time. You just want to make the most of it."
Wright said, with the game on the line, the cheering Jordan-Hare crowd made a difference.
"I heard the receiver couldn't even get the play, and that's why the quarterback kept throwing it out of bounds. It was definitely the loudest. What a moment," Wright said.
"I can't think of better night that we've had since I've been here."
•Here's a long list of Auburn football stories, including the coordinators' view of the game, a notebook and column, from Saturday's win.
Video: Carl Lawson talks about Auburn's defensive play against Ole Miss:
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine