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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tigers' defense not in top form

I wrote a story for today's newspaper about how Auburn's defense hasn't been all too great so far this season. Here's how it starts:

AUBURN, Ala. — The outcome had been decided, but Ball State kept putting up points in the fourth quarter against Auburn’s mix-and-match defense, which featured second- and third-stringers.

The Tigers still got their lopsided 54-30 victory last Saturday, but something about that second number didn’t sit right with defensive end Antonio Coleman, who felt compelled to speak up at the defense’s next meeting.

“I just told them this is not a great thing,” he said. “Opponents look at us on film and say, ‘Ball State hung 30 on these guys.’ It makes you look vulnerable on defense.”

Lost in Auburn’s 4-0 start and eye-popping offensive numbers is the unsettling fact that the Tigers’ highly-touted defense has had its share of struggles.

While Auburn still ranks high in disruption statistics, such as turnovers and sacks, it has been alarmingly sub-par in several major defensive categories.

The Tigers are 10th in the SEC and in the bottom half nationally in rushing defense (154.0 yards per game) and scoring defense (24.3 points per game). Tackling issues have persisted, and Auburn has been abysmal on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 43.1 percent, last in the SEC and 91st in the country.

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