Auburn's defense playing tough down the stretch

Nov. 12, 2013

GabeWright
It was the end of the road for Washington State when Gabe Wright and Auburn made the tackles in the second half (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala.  Maybe, says Gabe Wright, the Auburn defense is too hyped up at the start of games. That could be one reason why opponents have enjoyed more success in the first half of games and not so much down te stretch.

"More than anything, I’d say it’s going to be focus." 

But when Wright and Co. focus in, things change for the better. And when opponents get near the end zone, Auburn seems to really zero in, and that will be the goal again when the Tigers play host to Georgia at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

The Tigers have allowed fewer yards in the second half in seven games, more yards in the second half in two games and the same yardage in one game.  

"I would say it’s definitely on the players. I’m not sure if it’s mental," Wright says. "Maybe we have to lower getting so hyped and really focus on our keys at first." 

Through it all, Auburn is 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Georgia is 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the league.

Auburn is second in the SEC in red zone defense, allowing scores on 23 of 32 trips inside the 20. Only 14 of those trips have produced touchdowns. 

Tennessee scored one touchdown on 12 possessions last Saturday. 

"I’m not saying we have a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, but a team goes 12 series and has only a field goal, one touchdown and five punts, that’s actually a good defense," Wright said. "Of course, we want to work on the total yards per game."

Auburn has generally done that in the second half of games. The Tigers have outscored opponents 90-53 in the third quarter, 71-30 in the fourth quarter. 

Now, they'll be trying to keep Georgia's run game and tailback Todd Gurley in check. 

"It’s something we’ve been working on and focusing on," Wright said. "It’s something players have taken more initiative on. We are going to get right to it and nip it in the bud. Georgia is a great running team with a great running back. It’s something we definitely need to fix and control more." 

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Gurley "may be the most physical back in the league…He's certainly going to be a load."

And there's Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, the SEC's all-time leader in total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes. He's thrown 10 touchdown passes without an interception in three games against Auburn. 

"Aaron Murray can pick apart a defense like no other," Wright said. "He’s one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the SEC. We are going to have to get to him, maybe even blitz. It’s definitely a challenge for us. We accept that challenge."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: