AUBURN — There were signs of improvement all around for Auburn despite the 12-10 loss to then No. 2 LSU Saturday night.
Auburn held LSU to 182 yards rushing on 44 carries. Considering LSU’s rushing offense came in averaging an SEC-best 269.3 yards and Auburn’s defense came in allowing an SEC-worst 217, the result was somewhat surprising.
While the result still was a loss, Saturday’s game also was a radical difference from last year’s outing with LSU, which ended 45-10.
Safety Demetruce McNeal said the change in coaching under the new system installed by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is a big part of why the defense played so well.
“Last year, we weren’t coached very well,” McNeal said. “We weren’t as smart as players as we are this year with a change on defense. Last year we put on kind of a clown show, a lot of guys not doing their work and not doing their job. This year we just detailed our work.”
LSU’s offense came into Saturday’s game leading the SEC with 48.3 points in three lopsided wins, but Auburn’s defense was able to limit the now No. 3-ranked team in the country to just 10 points on offense.
McNeal said the defense’s effort and intensity was high and the unit wanted to prove itself.
“Basically coming into the game we wanted to show everybody that we were a defense that could hold our own against whatever ranked team comes in here or this powerful offense,” said McNeal who made a game-high 11 tackles Saturday. “We just wanted to show everybody we could hold our ground. … We even wanted them to go for it on fourth down just to try to show everybody we could hold our own.”
Auburn (1-3, 0-2 in SEC) showed some progress on the offensive side of the ball as well, running for 86 yards on 30 carries. While lower than the 255 yards it had against Louisiana-Monroe, it is also much higher than the 47 yards LSU was averaging defensively.
Tre Mason led Auburn with 54 yards on nine carries and Onterio McCalebb had 11 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown.
“We tried to get as much as possible,” Mason said. “Everyone wants to run for 100, 200 yards, but you know, the challenge for us, we’d heard that they’d stopped all of the other teams for 47.
“My mindset is that nothing in front of me should stop me.”
Ultimately, Auburn coach Gene Chizik felt the game came down to missed opportunities for his squad on both sides of the ball.
“I feel the same way at the end of this game as I did after Clemson,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Played top-10 teams, putting yourself in a position to win the game, had several opportunities. … One of the things I’m definitely proud of, and it stood out, was that we tried to play a physical brand of football last night.
“We thought that after the game, but we certainly feel that way today. It was a game, in the end, that was missed opportunities.”
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