AUBURN, Ala — Auburn’s defensive players are careful with their words. They don’t want to point fingers at the team’s stagnant offense. In fact, they’ll do the opposite if they have to.
Nobody would blame the defensive Tigers for expressing their frustration with the offense’s inability to keep pace. But that’s not happening.
If blame happens, it will be inward.
“I wouldn’t say frustrated. We’re a team, and we understand that it takes all 11 on both sides of the ball to get the job done,” junior defensive back Nick Ruffin said. “You know, there’s obviously hints of frustration. But at the end of the day, we know that we’ve got to perform better. That frustration is not going to help us play better down the road.”
It’s not like the defense was perfect Saturday in the 29-16 loss to Texas A&M — especially by its own standards.
For starters, the Tigers were 29 points from their goal of a shout, which to be fair, isn’t a realistic of a goal against that Aggies offense. But those are the kind of comments the Tigers made after the defeat. Auburn allowed its biggest bust of the season — 89-yard touchdown run by Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams — that served as an Aggies’ exclamation point.
All in all, Texas A&M tallied 478 yards — somewhat skewed by that one major play — but that doesn’t tell the full story of what Auburn’s defense did Saturday night. The Aggies only converted 2-of-15 third downs. They scored just a single touchdown in five red zone trips (and four field goals).
Auburn forced Texas A&M to settle for five field goals. But that won’t cut it for a high-standards defense, especially when its offense isn’t clicking.
“We held them to field goals, but they still had more points than us. We’ve still got to pick it up and do something better,” linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “If they can’t kick the field goals, they can’t score then we win.”
But a fair question: What does the defense have to do to beat top-level competition?
On Saturday, Auburn entered halftime within one possession. The Tigers defense didn’t allow a point until the field goals late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter. In that time, Auburn’s offense punted four times. No points, no support for the Tigers stout defense.
But that’s no excuse, at least in the minds of Auburn defensive players: The offense isn’t the only unit that can score points.
“I don’t feel like we played well enough and the reason being, no one ever said defense can’t score,” senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams said.
That’s right. In their eyes, it’s their fault they didn’t score — not the offense.
It’s two straight games without a turnover after forcing two against Clemson. Ruffin went down near the end zone Saturday. He wasn’t injured, simply annoyed that he didn’t pick off a pass he felt he should.
Senior Josh Holsey talked about the need for turnovers last week after the win. Williams, Ruffin, Adams and Deshaun Davis all said the defense needed to start creating them, rather than just talking about them. It might be Auburn’s only chance to gain momentum for scoreboard production.
“We’ve just got to make it a priority. We talked about it, but we have yet to make it a priority,” Williams said. “We’ve got to do better in practice, and it will come second nature in the game.”