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Auburn defense gets tough in the red zone again

Nov. 3, 2013

Dee Ford leaps to tip a pass that was intercepted by Cassanova McKinzy on Saturday at Arkansas (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Phillip Marshall

Auburn’s defense didn’t shut down Arkansas’ running game or consistently get off the field on third down Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks rushed for 222 yards and converted 9-of-16 third downs. But in the red zone, as they have all season, the Tigers showed their teeth.

* Arkansas moved to the Auburn 15 on its first possession, but backup quarterback A.J. Darby’s pass was tipped into the air by end Dee Ford and intercepted on a diving catch by linebacker Cassanova McKinzy.

* Early in the second quarter, Arkansas had second-and-5 at the Auburn `17 and had to settle for a field goal.

* Later in the second quarter, Arkansas drove from its own 25 to a first down at the Auburn 4. But in a memorable goal line stand, the Tigers stopped the Razorbacks four times, twice from the 1-yard line. The last two stops were by reserve linebacker JaViere’ Mitchell.

Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense was grinding out yards en route to a 35-17 victory.

Auburn safeties coach Charlie “Cheese” Harbison said Auburn players did what they have done all year. They didn’t pout over bad plays. They moved on to the next one.

“We tell our guys you never know when you are going to have to answer the bell,” Harbison said. “The guys didn’t look down at the dirt and look at their shoes. They just kept playing one snap at a time. Coach Johnson always tells us you never know when the play is going to come up when you have to make a big tackle.”

Ford said that has become the personality of the Auburn defense.

“We always talk about, 'they’re going to make plays, we've just got to make the next play,'” Ford said. “I think it's just us playing defense and coming up with big plays and growing up.”

After giving up 139 rushing yards in the first half, the Tigers gave up just 83 in the second half. And 26 of those came on the first play of the second half.

“It really wasn’t much we did,” Ford said. “We just had to calm down.”

Defensive tackle Nosa Eguae said the Tigers will need to play better in games to come against Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

“We knew exactly what it was going to be,” Eguae said. “It was going to be a physical ballgame. We were on the field a lot. We've got to watch the film and get better.  We know we've got to improve.”


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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