Senior safety Tray Matthews calls the Auburn defense the “Stupid D” because it will play through anything while taking on what’s next instead of looking at what’s been.
As the Tigers fought to retain a budding lead in the third quarter, they were forced to exercise some demons after spotting the Crimson Tide a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, the senior leaders and coaching staff brought the team together to regroup.
“We realized that wasn’t us. That wasn’t our football, that wasn’t our standard that we built the past two years,” senior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “When we came off to the sideline we had a little team meeting just to let everyone know that’s not us. After that, we went out there and actually played Auburn football.”
Through the remainder of the game the Tigers held the Tide back on its last five possessions, including turning the team away on the 12-yard line in the third quarter – Alabama attempted a field goal but fumbled the snap and turned the ball over on downs.
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While the Tigers kicked it up a notch in the second half, their defensive play through the entirety of the game remained a crucial factor, particularly on third down conversion attempts.
Alabama came into the game converting 42.7 percent of its third down attempts. The Tigers limited the Tide to just three on 11 attempts.
“That was a big emphasis,” Williams said. “If we got off the field and gave the offense more time to do their thing, then that would be a plus for us. And that’s what we did today.”
Not only did the Tigers hold an Alabama offense to a 27.3 percent conversion rate on third down, they held the Tide to two scoreless quarters. Alabama had scored in 49 straight quarters coming into Saturday’s game.
“It shows you the tenacity that we have on defense. That’s why we’re called, ‘Stupid D,’” Matthews said. “We’re very stupid in the head out there. We play through injuries, we play through the criticism, we play through the bad plays. We just keep going.”
Through the course of the game, the Tigers’ defense was relentless in harassing Jalen Hurts as Nick Coe and Deshaun Davis recorded sacks and the team hurried the Tide quarterback another nine times with Jeff Holland leading the pass rush with three hurries.
Despite all the success, the dancing and the mojo, the team locked down when it need to the most. Though, they had a little sage advice as well.
“Mr. Bo Jackson came over there and he was like, ‘I don’t want to see you all celebrating no more until they score or until the clock got zero-zero on it,’” Williams said. “That really helped us out because it kept us focused. And when the clock hit zero, we celebrated.”