AUBURN – Say, did anyone notice that No. 9 Auburn’s defense pitched a shutout?
That performance against Louisiana-Monroe was overshadowed by the offense’s lack of a passing game, but first-year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said the 34-0 win gave his players something to celebrate.
“You work so hard and shutouts are hard to come by,” Rhoads said. “Any time you can walk away with one, you feel pretty good about yourselves. Certainly we wanted the kids because of the effort that they had expended at that point, to walk away with that.”
He found plenty to like about the performance, from the players’ hustle to being able to let freshman cornerbacks D’Antoine Hood and Neiko Thorpe play the whole second half.
What Rhoads didn’t like: Eight missed tackles.
“We tackled decent, not great. And if you’re going to be a great defense, you’ve got to tackle great,” he said.
Thorpe, who also played in the first half when the Tigers had extra defensive backs on the field, led the team with seven tackles and also broke up two passes. Hood had three tackles.
“I thought you could see them growing up during the game,” Rhoads said. “They were physical. They didn’t back down from anything. They made some mistakes certainly, but they got their feet wet fast.”
The Tigers had six first-time starters — three on defense — and 19 players see their first college action. For veteran Antonio Coleman, Thorpe especially stood out.
“I think he’s going to be a really great player for us,” the defensive end said. “I like him playing behind me any day.”
FIRST LOOK: It would seem like an advantage for LSU to face Troy this week, since the Trojans and Auburn both run versions of Tony Franklin’s offense.
Tuberville said there’s a flip side to that. Auburn coaches can get an advance look at how LSU defended the no-huddle, spread offense.
“I’d rather somebody played against an offense like we run before we get into it with them,” he said. “We’ll have some idea of what their first thought was, did it work, did it not work. It gives you an idea. If we’re going to play a team in the future and they don’t play anything we run, it doesn’t give you a lot to work on.”
Franklin spent the last two seasons at Troy, which still employs his spread offense.
CAUDLE’S CHANCE?: Sophomore Neil Caudle would be Auburn’s backup quarterback if Kodi Burns is unable to play against Southern Miss because of a cut on his left leg.
Caudle played briefly in one game as a redshirt freshman, and didn’t complete a pass. He is familiar with the offense, but hasn’t seen significant action since sustaining a season-ending knee injury early in his senior year in high school.
“He ran this offense in high school his last two years,” Tuberville said. “The only problem was that he got hurt and didn’t really have much of an opportunity to play. He’s got an excellent arm and he knows the offense. I feel very comfortable with him playing. He’s been around, he’s an older guy so he understands the speed of the game.”