A Good Defense is Required for Tigers to be a Contender
A swarm of Auburn defenders bring down Washington’s Jake Browning (3) as Deshaun Davis (57) knocks down his desperation pass on the Huskies last play in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game (Jake Crandall/ USA TODAY Sports)
I love college football. I love to see the breakaway running back, the fearless gun-slinging quarterback, the last minute game heroics, the pageantry, tailgating, pretty girls, barbecue, crazed fans, loud stadiums, the rise and fall of emotions with the natural ebb and flow of the game … I love it all; but most of all—I love to watch the defense play.
I guess that puts me in the minority because most people like offense. But for me, I would rather see an interception returned for a touchdown than see the quarterback throw a long bomb for a score. Don’t get me wrong, I love both, it’s just that “Defense” excites me more.
I love to see the opponent’s offense get frustrated and out of sync because a swarming defense has intercepted passes, hurried throws, caused turnovers, and rung up numerous quarterback sacks. I love to see the opponent’s offense back on its heels as the “D” keeps coming at them from every which way they turn.
I love to see goal line stands that save the game, defensive linemen that terrorize quarterbacks, and defensive backs that make receivers pay for crossing the middle. Yes, bone crushing, jaw rattling tackles that can be heard in the stands. Yes D E F E N S E is where it’s at for me; defense is what excites me.
And defensive junkies like me were treated to a show inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday in Atlanta. From the first snap, the defense came out on fire against Washington as Kevin Steele’s swarming D forced a three and out on the Huskies’ first possession.
For the most part Jake Browning was hurried, harassed, or sacked the entire game. The elite QB has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in his career, and while he did wind up throwing for 296 yards, it was 100 yards under his average.
The Auburn D made it very difficult for one of the nation’s best offenses to reach the end zone. And the drives the Huskies did put together were aided by eight defensive flags. Take those out, and the game would have been a Tiger blowout. Admittedly, the defense needs to clean that up, but from where I sat in the end zone some of those were very questionable.
Despite those obstacles the defense found a way to come through when the chips were down.
Nick Coe, playing at buck, made a big play in the third quarter when he broke through to force a fumble, which linebacker Darrell Williams recovered, on third and goal at the Tigers’ 3-yard line. Williams also deflected what looked like a possible touchdown pass, keeping Browning frustrated. Later, with time running out, Browning was smothered by a host of blitzing defenders and his feeble attempt to get a pass off was knocked to the turf by Deshaun Davis. Williams and Coe earned SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Co-Defensive Lineman Player of the Week honors for their performance.
It was a dominant performance for Auburn.
Even with Washington benefiting from flags, the Tigers held the Huskies to 16 points, 20 below last season’s average, harassed Browning, and held 4,000-yard-rusher Myles Gaskin to 75 yards. Overall, the defense finished with nine tackles for a loss, five sacks, two forced turnovers, and only allowed 5 third down conversions on 14 attempts. “We always want that type of pressure,” said D-lineman Dontavius Russell. “If the [Auburn] offense scored three points, then we should win the game is how we look at it.”
Much was written in the offseason about high expectations for this unit. It appears the hype was deserved. The Tigers may well turn out to have a special defense. And you know the old saying, “Offense puts butts in seats, and defense wins championships.”
Should I dare mention the word “championship” this early in the season? Why not, that’s always the goal on the Plains. While Auburn still has to navigate the SEC, including a murderous road schedule, it’s a great start for a good defense.
And a good defense has to be there if the Tigers are to be a contender.