Oct. 15, 2013
Auburn is third in the SEC with 16 sacks through six games (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - For Auburn's defense, the numbers don't add up in the usual way. It's new math, Auburn style.
The Tigers are 10th in the Southeastern Conference in total defense, giving up 399.2 yards per game. Yet, they are third in scoring defense, giving up 18.8 points per game and trailing only Alabama and Georgia.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says it hasn't been that way by design.
"Statistically, we give up too many yards," Johnson said. "It's not anything we are trying to do or trying to take a bend but don't break approach. We've given up some bad plays and given up a lot of yardage, but our players have played with great effort."
Through it all, the No. 24 Tigers are 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC going into Saturday's game against No. 7 Texas A&M, also 5-1 and 2-1, at Kyle Field in College Station.
And here are some other numbers that have helped make it happen:
* Tied for second in red zone defense.
* Third with 16 sacks for minus-96 yards.
* Third in third-down conversions, holding opponents to 33.3 percent on 32 of 96
* Second in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 112.8
Johnson says the defense doesn't deserve all the credit for holding opponents' points down. He says punter Steven Clark, kicker Cody Parkey and the coverage teams deserve credit, too.
"We've got a great kicking game," Johnson said. "One year at South Carolina, the average starting position when we kicked the ball off was the 36-yard line. That's tough. Cody kicks it through the end zone almost every time.
"We have a punter that, most of the time when we swap punts with somebody, we gain about 12 or 15 yards. I think a lot of things are affecting us keeping people off the board other than just defense."
The Tigers will need it all when they take the Aggies and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"They are so balanced that, if you try to take one element away, another element is going to beat you," Johnson said. "When you have a team like them that has good players at every spot, you have to get it out of your mind that you are going to stop them. You have to disrupt them. You have to slow them down."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: