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'We can build upon this': New starters, Holland harasses Hogs, off week plans in Auburn notebook
Auburn's defense was dominant during Saturday's win at Arkansas
Oct. 22, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Making his first start of the season and second of his career, safety Daniel Thomas delivered four first-half tackles in Auburn's 52-20 win Saturday at Arkansas.

"It was great," said Thomas, who started in place of the injured Tray Matthews. "The defense swarming to the ball, everybody giving effort. It was always the 'next man up' mentality, but it felt good being out there."

Thomas' most important tackle might have occurred on Arkansas' longest gain when he chased down Chase Hayden at Auburn's 35, saving a touchdown after a 40-yard run.

"All that was going through my head was, 'get to the ball, can't let them score,'' said Thomas, whose first career start came against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. "We got our edge back, so we're on the way."

O-line depth

When first-time starter Marquel Harrell got the call at left guard in place of Mike Horton, who was injured against LSU, it gave the Tigers a different starting offensive line in each of Auburn's five SEC games.

"Real proud of Marquel, he made his first start. Prince Tega's back at it," said coach Gus Malzahn of Auburn's left side. "I thought they did an excellent job all night. Marquel's a guy we have a lot of confidence in. He did a good job."

Rush hour

Auburn recorded six sacks, including the first of Big Kat Bryant and Jeremiah Dinson's careers. Freshman T.D. Moultry also made a half sack, as a big fourth-quarter lead provided playing time for most everyone who made the trip.



"They're not playing like freshmen, they're taking that next step, and being able to make plays and give them confidence in SEC games," Malzahn said. "It'll do nothing but help us moving forward."

The freshman defensive linemen have a nearby role model to emulate in Jeff Holland, who forced two fumbles, recovered one and recorded 1.5 sacks.

"He loves football. He's a football player," Malzahn said. "He's taken his game to the next level. Coach Garner is really helping him with that. His motor is really something. He's not just good rushing the passer, he's good against the run, too."

'A chance to heal'

After eight weeks without a break, Auburn enjoys an open date this week before playing its final road game on Nov. 4 at Texas A&M.

"You get a chance from a coaches' standpoint to catch your breath and really evaluate things and that really helps," Malzahn said. "A lot of times if you go back and just watch everything, you can see some deficiencies, you can see some strengths and you can get a really good plan moving forward. And I think we've been pretty good after bye weeks the last few years, and we'll need to do the same thing.

"In the off week, you focus on yourself. This week will be more about us, and getting healthy, and then cleaning up the things we need to clean up to get better.

"It's going to give us a chance to heal up, that's going to be our priority next week. We played good football tonight and so we can build upon this. I think we're in a good spot to finish this thing strong."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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