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Auburn looks to build on defense's stand in second half
Nov. 9, 2014

Auburn's Cassanova McKinzy had a leg up on Brandon Williams on Saturday

By Charles Goldberg

Auburn's defenders held Texas A&M to two field goals in the second half Saturday. 

"I was really proud of the way they finished," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

Oh, but those first two quarters were not a thing of beauty for Johnson.

The Aggies threw four touchdown passes and scored on a blocked field goal in the first half on the way to a 41-38 win, leaving Johnson to appreciate his defenders' effort in the second half, and looking for ways to improve things at the start of games.

"If there are any individuals that have gotten frustrated and lost confidence, I don't know of it," Johnson said. "We've got to find a better way to coach it, teach it, maybe throw some stuff out and make it a little simpler.

"Guys are playing with great effort. I know it's important to them. They're trying hard. They are practicing hard. We are just making some mistakes sometimes that are uncharacteristic. When we find the answer to that, we have to coach better, play a little harder, coach smarter, something. But we've got to eliminate those six or eight plays a game where we just don't make them earn it."

Auburn's pass rush, which saw a spark the week before with a season-high four sacks at Ole Miss, mustered only one against freshman quarterback Kyle Allen.

"The pass rush disappeared again. That's my biggest concern," Johnson said. "We knew coming into the game that our best chance to have a really good day was to make the quarterback uncomfortable. How do you do that? You take his running game away, which we did very average or below average, and we didn't hit the guy. We didn't hit him enough, didn't cause enough pressure on him. I think that was the biggest thing, because that was what our biggest emphasis was coming in."

Plus, Johnson said, "the tackling this week was not good. We are working extremely hard. We went back open date and put a five-minute tackling circuit in our practice routine. We have done it every Tuesday and Wednesday since that time."

Johnson said he thought Auburn's 11 missed practiced resulted in 114 yards. 

"If you eliminate half of that, it gets you off the field quicker, gets the offense the ball back quicker, helps field position and everything," he said. "Players understand it. We harp on explosive plays  keeping runs under 15, passes under 20. It will add up at the end."


Johnson said Jermaine Whitehead's return helped the defense. Whitehead had played only on special teams in the previous two games after returning from a suspension. He had an interception.

"He didn't get a completely full week of practice, but he got most of it and he was ready to go," Johnson said. "He was a little rusty. He hadn't been in the game plan for three or four weeks. We got him back and definitely wanted to get the opportunity to play him and get him back in the lineup."
 Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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