'Something to build on': Auburn defense gains confidence

*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*

AUBURN, Ala. — The coaches talked Friday night. Then, the defense had its say, and it went something like this:

"We talked as a unit, 'This is our team. We've got to make up for last year,'" remembers defensive lineman LaDarius Owens.

Owens and Co. followed through by holding Arkansas State without a touchdown in Saturday night's 38-9 win in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers will try to make it three wins in a row when they play host to Mississippi State this coming Saturday.

Safety Chris Davis had a team-high 10 tackles against the Red Wolves. Owens had eight tackles, including a sack and another tackle for a loss. Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy also had eight tackles.

Auburn hasn't allowed a touchdown in 19 straight series, going back to the middle of the second quarter of the opening win over Washington State. The latest win, said Owens, "is something to build on; the confidence we'll have.

"We'll have to get after it and make a show for the SEC."

Arkansas State, like Washington State before it, threatened to score touchdowns. But Auburn's defense played its best near its own end zone. That, and stopping the Red Wolves on all three fourth-down tries, helped the cause.

"I'm proud of my teammates and my fellow defensive linemen. We stood up and made the play," Owens said.

Auburn played a dizzying 13 defensive linemen. That's OK with Owens, who started Game 1 but not Game 2, but still came through with tackles.

"We were just going to play hard. If you get tired, you've got another guy coming in. That's why we were able to play so well tonight," Owens said.

McKinzy was limited to 19 plays in the opener as the Will linebacker. That was because Washington State threw on almost every down and the defensive formation called for more defensive backs. McKinzy played more Saturday and released that pent-up energy on Arkansas State.

"Last week, I kind of got frustrated. But it's a team thing," McKinzy said. "I came back this week and I was real ready. I love a team that runs. It gives me an opportunity to come out here and do what I like to do."

The game plan? "We just wanted to keep it simple so we could play fast."

The defense did, especially near the end zone.

"There's a whole different mentality. It's like, 'They're not getting that.' You have to play way more physical," he said.

"This year, we're just having fun. We know exactly what we're doing."


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