Billed as a no-defense shootout, Auburn vs. MississiPPi State, 2010 turned into more of an old-school SEC defensive slugfest—although, thankfully, it did feature more than five total points.
Contrary to expectations, the game ball in this one goes emphatically to the Auburn defense. Led by the lights-out play of Nick Fairley, the “D” repeatedly bailed out an AU offense that seemed determined to focus on appendage marksmanship at every opportunity. State had chance after chance to either get back in the game or take outright control—the Tubervillian onside kick being a prime example—only to get stopped by nick-of-time (no pun intended) defensive stands.
While there’s still work to be done, particularly in the secondary—Auburn can’t count on future opponents being cursed with concrete-handed receivers—the defensive performance was (duh) miles better than in AU’s opener. Scores of national prognosticators figured the State game as a track meet with an allegedly-deficient Tiger defense coming out on the bad end. In reality, Auburn held State to less than 250 yards of offense and one sustained scoring drive. Unless anybody out there believes Arkansas State has a better offense than MississiPPi State, I think we can safely call that a significant improvement.
On offense, the bag was more mixed. Way too many dumb penalties—again—and other mental mistakes kept the Tigers’ attack in neutral at too many big moments. Cameron Newton was as good as advertised once again, making one crucial play after another, but even for all of his heroics, the offense seemed stuck on sputter after about the middle of the second quarter.
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