ATLANTA — Brent Venables’ defense bent but didn’t break Saturday night.
Following a difficult first half that featured several major coverage busts, the Tigers held Auburn to a trio of second-half field goals that kept Clemson in the conversation for a 26-19 Georgia Dome victory over AU.
It was a tough first night on the job for Venables, who had to adjust on the fly to Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s system. Overall, he was quite pleased with what his defense displayed on a national stage.
An overview: “Every time Auburn guys showed toughness, had to come back in the second half, they didn’t make it easy on us. So I compliment Auburn on a good game plan, and our guys, I appreciate their focus. Between every series we had to make adjustments and show our guys what we were trying to do. But we did a good job of blocking, getting a hat on a hat, and we’ve got work to do, a lot of room for improvement. We’ve got to be more consistent and we can’t give up big plays. But we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Openers are always difficult and it’s hard to get a real DNA on Auburn offensively, what they wanted to do and how they were going to use their personnel. You could see they were pretty flexible at what they do with their personnel sets. I love the activeness of our guys. We made a lot of plays down the stretch. They were really tough on the third and fourth down (late), and we responded to adversity in a big-time way, holding them out of the end zone. To only allow one touchdown, it says a lot about our guys. We’ve got a lot of work to do to continue to improve, but love the tough attitude.”
On making adjustments to Auburn’s offense: “At halftime I was having to try and change defenders based on what they were doing. We hadn’t worked on some things they were doing. What we were doing obviously wasn’t working. In the second half we had to use some things to throw them off balance. They popped a couple of runs on us but we’ll get better.”
On coverage issues: “You’ve got to play good coverage. That’s the bottom line. They’re running 1-2 man routes, you’ve got to have them outnumbered and do a good job in those situations and we didn’t. You don’t get pressure if you run into a brick wall. (Phillip Lutzenkirchen) is very multiple in how they use him. It took time for us to get adjusted to a lot of things that weren’t on tape. Openers are hard, and they’ve got a bunch of skilled talented guys that can do multiple things. Again, that defense is trained to react but it took us a while to get caught up to what they were doing and what their thought process was. But time and again, our guys made some huge stops and responded to adversity along the way.”
On the young defensive line: “I liked the fight in them. It’s hard to say until after I watch (film). I thought they responded and came up with some really big plays in the game, we’ve got to play more consistently in our run defense.”