AUBURN, ALA. – Will Muschamp’s return to his defensive calling had been anything but a quick fix for Auburn. The pipes leaked on, the holes in the plaster remained un-spackled and squirrels still cavorted in the attic.
Yet on Saturday against Georgia this much maligned unit and its new coordinator rightfully could claim the fault lay elsewhere.
College football’s 94th ranked defense (allowing an average of 431 yards a game), was far healthier this weekend. The same defense that yielded more than 400 yards to Jacksonville State, San Jose State and Kentucky gave up but 243 yards to Georgia.
Hired following his dismissal as Florida’s head coach at the end of 2014, Muschamp was snapped up by the Tigers with orders to improve a defense that faded badly last season. The early sledding was ugly, but here Auburn is now having put together back-to-back solid defensive performances (against Texas A&M and the Bulldogs).
Of the Georgia showing, head coach Gus Malzahn seemed pleased enough. “The defense played well. The big fourth down stop was huge,” he said, referring to a second-quarter stop of the Bulldogs on fourth down at the Auburn 2-yard line.
“I thought they did some very good things. We didn’t win. That’s the bottom line. Maybe one group needs to step up, but we just didn’t score enough points to win today.”
In the 20-13 victory, Georgia scored 13 of those points off a 53-yard punt return and two turnovers committed by the Auburn offense.
Having difficulty getting off the field early this year, the Auburn defense held the Bulldogs to only 5-of-14 on third-down conversions.
“(The defense) has come a long way and we’re only going to get better,” defensive tackle Davaroe Lawrence said.
Precious little time is left in this disappointing season for Auburn, but at least one aspect of the team moves on feeling better about itself.
“It’s the little things that we’re building off of, trying to get better in certain areas,” senior linebacker Kris Frost said. “We feel like we’ve progressed over the course of the year and we’re going to continue to progress. Regardless of the record or the letdowns, we feel like we’re one of the only teams that are continuing to progress this late in the season.”