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Statement game: Auburn defense 'just wanted it more'
Jeff Holland finished Saturday's game with five tackles, one sack and three quarterback hurries. As a defense, Auburn had five tackles for loss and four sacks. Photo: Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics
Nov. 11, 2017

By Greg Ostendorf

AUBURN, Ala. -- For the past week, all Auburn players heard about was Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Georgia's two-headed monster at running back, and how they were going to rack up the rushing yards on this Auburn defense. It didn't matter that the Tigers are one of the SEC's better teams against the run. They were no match for Chubb and Michel.

In Saturday's 40-17 victory, the Auburn defense held Chubb to 27 yards and Michel to 21 yards. As a team, Georgia rushed for a mere 46 yards.

"When you're a good unit, you get tired of hearing about individual players," Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. "A lot of people told us that we have poor linebacker play this year and they were going to run all over us. They were going to run for 300 yards, this and that. Just the competitors that we are, we didn't buy into all that. We knew the unit that we had. We knew what we had to do. And we went out and did it."

"We just used that as motivation," added fellow linebacker Darrell Williams. "We've been doing this. This is nothing new. We've done to this teams before, and we just wanted to come out there and show people that we were going to do it to these guys. They've got talented guys. We just wanted it more."

As impressive as the Auburn defense played -- it might have been its best performance of the season -- there was some cause for concern after the first drive.

Georgia got the ball first and marched right down the field, going 70 yards on eight plays, and capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Chubb to take an early 7-0 lead. There was a 3rd-and-7 where quarterback Jake Fromm connected with Javon Wims for 28 yards and a first down, and he threw another 26-yard pass on the very next play.

"It's funny because there wasn't really concern," Auburn safety Tray Matthews said. "We all said, `Hey, we need to get everything together, next-play mentality. Let's go out there and dominate. They shouldn't score any more.' They almost didn't. We just kicked everything into overdrive.

"We've just got that mentality. We've got that dog mentality on defense."

After that opening drive, Auburn put the clamps down. There was constant pressure up front, led by pass-rush specialist Jeff Holland, and it seemed like every time Georgia faced a critical third down, Auburn came up with a stop. The Tigers allowed just two first downs the rest of the first half and forced three straight 3-and-outs at one point.

This was a Georgia offense that had averaged 478 total yards of offense over their last seven games, and the Auburn defense held them to 230 yards Saturday.

"Give [Georgia] credit. They're a good team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said after the game. "They've trashed everyone they've played up front. The running backs have run wild against good defenses. We talked about how we were going to have to weather some storms. After that [opening drive] when we settled down and stopped that run, we were getting them before they got going."

"We just settled down and played our brand of football," Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson said. "We played Auburn football."

How would you define that brand of football?

"Fast, physical and effort," Davidson said. "That's all we do, every day. We play fast. We play physical. And we have effort to get to the ball."

The talk all week might have been about Chubb, Michel and this Georgia offense, but after Saturday, it looks as though everybody was talking about the wrong unit. It's time to give credit where credit is due and applaud this Auburn defense.

"We've got one of the best defenses in the country," Malzahn said. "They proved it again tonight."

Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter:



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