November 10, 2007

Notebook: Big plays rip Auburn defense

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a simple goal for his defense each week: stop the running game, don't give up big plays and force turnovers.

Other than forcing a couple of turnovers and a quarter-and-a-half of solid play, AU's defense didn't come close to meeting Muschamp's expectations against No. 10 Georgia Saturday.

"You've got to stop these guys down the field and you can't let them convert third down," said Muschamp. "That's what happened again.

"We've got to do a better job coaching and getting them in the right spot. This is two years in a row that we have not played well. We're certainly capable of playing better."

Georgia's offense had six plays of over 20 yards including five in the second half as the Bulldogs bounced back from a 20-17 deficit to bury the Tigers 45-20. The big plays included a 58-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford to Mohamed Massaquoi in the first quarter, a 33-yard pass from Stafford to Sean Bailey in the third quarter and a 53-yard run by Thomas Brown in the fourth quarter.

But the biggest of the big plays came early in the third quarter right after AU jumped out to a 3-point lead.

Stafford completed a 46-yard pass to Bailey and tailback Knowshon Moreno followed with a 24-yard touchdown run two play later. UGA's offense added touchdowns on its three possessions to put the game away.

"We got whipped pretty good on defense," said AU head coach Tommy Tuberville. "We haven't given up that many points in I don't know how long.

"I thought we looked confused out there a couple of times. When you give up 45 points, you've been taken to the woodshed pretty good."

After holding UGA to 45 rushing yard in the first half, the Bulldogs exploded for 135 in the second with Moreno finishing with a game-high 101 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Brown added 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

"In the second half, we just didn't adjust very well to that one play, the toss play," said Tuberville. "They ran it three or four times for probably 120 yards."

Muschamp said it was a combination of errors that led to the big runs.

"We got a linebacker up the field one time, we got our backside linebacker cut one time and we missed a tackle the other time," he said. "We had three different issues on three different plays. We just have to fit the run better."

Bright spot

One of the few bright spots on defense for AU was the play of defensive end Antonio Coleman. The sophomore finished the game with a team-high eight tackles, all solo, four tackles-for-loss and his team-leading seventh sack of the season.

But Coleman wasn't interested in discussing his individual play following the loss.

"Those numbers don't mean anything," he said. "We lost the game. It really hurt, man. It was a really big game for us."

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