AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football’s defensive coaches did everything they could think of to stress the importance of turnovers ahead of the 2017 season.
It’s why a giant recliner was placed in the back of the meeting room early in preseason camp. The player who creates the “turnover of the day” earns a spot in the comfiest seat.
The Tigers totaled 6 sacks in their home opener against Georgia Southern, but didn’t come up with any turnovers. Week 2 at Clemson unfolded differently.
“You keep waiting for it to come and it has finally come,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “We hope it comes in large bunches. You need that in this league.”
Auburn forced two Clemson fumbles in Death Valley, sending momentum to Auburn’s sideline. Defensive lineman Jeff Holland forced the first one in the first quarter, and Marlon Davidson mimicked the strip in the third quarter.
It was exactly what a defense that had been fighting all night needed.
“Yes, we’re pleased it happened, and it’s contagious,” Steele said. “They see what that does, and when you get a turnover at the 10-yard line and I think the other one was right at the 50-yard line, they were both strips. They just stripped the ball out, pulled it out. We’ve emphasized that more than you can imagine.”
Of course, Auburn players know the importance of turnovers against top-ranked teams such as Clemson. Seeing and feeling the positive effect in a road atmosphere was important, though.
“It’s a process, “Steele said. “We need to go from good to very good to real good and keep reaching for that standard. So that’s kind of what we’ve challenged them with. They’ve responded. Every time we’ve asked them to do something they’ve responded, and this time will be no different.”
Now the plan is to scrounge even harder for more turnovers.
“It was huge,” defensive back Carlton Davis said. “Like I said, we had a great defensive performance — well, a good one because we didn’t get the win, so we just have to work on a couple more things and keep moving forward.”
Even after the offense failed to produce against Clemson on Saturday night, Steele’s group remains focused on the tasks at hand, which includes a looming SEC schedule.
Clemson prepared Auburn’s defense for the rest of the season, including the start of conference play at Missouri on Sept 23.
“It’s going to make us a lot better,” senior safety Tray Matthews said. “We have some things we can improve on and we have a lot of things on tape. This was a big game so we’ll definitely fix those things and move on.”