Down 28-21 with fewer than 10 minutes to play — and its offense stagnating — the Tigers’ defense was forced to step up its level of play. And that’s exactly what it did.
On consecutive Alabama possessions in the final eight and a half minutes, Auburn’s defense made stops on fourth down which prevented any more points from being put on the board.
Dee Ford shrugged off any praise reporters tried to put on the unit in the postgame, saying it wasn’t anything special.
“We knew that’s what we were going to have to do. We’ve had to do it all year,” the senior said. “That’s just part of being a team. The offense picks us up at times. That’s just part of what this team has. It’s that ‘it factor.’ We just knew we had to keep giving our offense opportunities.”
While the defense excelled in the final period, the rest of the game was an uneven showing, as it allowed 495 yards of total offense. That included a three-touchdown performance from Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron, who Robenson Therezie acknowledged the Tigers didn’t center their game plan around.
“We didn’t worry about the quarterback,” Therezie said. “We just worried about stopping the run, getting at least one or two turnovers. Just the little things we always talk about trying to do, they become even more important in a game like this.”
The Tigers had some difficulty in slowing down T.J. Yeldon as well, as Alabama’s sophomore running back finished 141 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
What Therezie took pride in was Auburn’s performance on third down, with Alabama converting just four of 13 attempts.
“When it comes to that, it’s all based on tackles,” he said. “We talked about tackles and getting them on the ground. (Yeldon is) a big dude. When my opportunities came, I know Coach (defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson) talks about hitting them low, but I don’t really know how to do that. I just know how to tackle high. We call it ‘knockout’ hits.”
Therezie said the biggest challenge Saturday night was not getting worn down by Alabama's offense. The Tigers watched the Crimson Tide do it to other teams during film study, and they didn't want to be the next one added to the list.
"We were ready for it. We weren’t going to let down," he said. "We’ve seen them do it against LSU and those teams, and we just had to stop them. It’s obvious they were going to run the ball in fourth-and-short. We just had to fill in the gaps."
Alabama struggled mightily in the kicking game Saturday night, missing all four field goals it attempted.
Only one of those four was blocked, however, and it came with just 2:32 remaining in the contest. Had it been successful, the Crimson Tide could have pushed its lead to 31-21. Robinson was credited with the block in the final stats, and when initially asked about it, Therezie claimed responsibility.
But the more the junior pondered it, the less sure he became.
"I just gave it my all and put my hands out there," he said. "I saw the ball was blocked. I don’t think I touched it. When your adrenaline is rushing, you don’t feel nothing."
Auburn legend Bo Jackson was in attendance Saturday to promote the third annual Bo Bikes Bama charity bike ride, which is scheduled for A-Day on April 19.
The event, which helps to rebuild homes and provide storm shelters throughout the state in remembrance of the deadly tornadoes that swept through the state on April 27, 2011, was started as a five-day ride across the state. Since the inception, the event has raised more than half a million dollars for the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund.
The former Heisman Trophy winner, who turned 51 on Saturday, was honored during an on-field ceremony.