Auburn’s defense held Georgia Southern to a total of 78 yards of offense Saturday night. Led by Tre' Williams's ten tackles and two sacks, the Tigers held an opponent to the lowest yardage total since Pat Dye’s team held Ole Miss to nine total yards in 1985.
"The biggest thing that is pretty evident is we had challenged them to be relentless in their effort, be both physically and mentally tough,” Steele said. “Missed tackles were minimal, and usually when there was a missed tackle it was not long before there were two or three others making up for it.”
Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack failed to score any points, with the only touchdown coming off of a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. The offense failed to convert a single third down, while Eagles' quarterback Shai Werts threw for just eight yards.
With the defense's big night, Steele saw multiple defensive players step up into leadership roles.
“We’ve seen Jeff (Holland) just kind of get better each week,” Auburn's second-year defensive coordinator said. “We always tell him, you’re getting better or you’re getting worse. You never stay the same. And he works every day to get better.”
Holland finished the game with five tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss.
Nick Coe also impressed Steele in his first collegiate game. “Nick played very well. He affected the game. He changed the line of scrimmage, rushed the passer… He did pretty well,” Steele said.
Auburn's defense as a whole totaled five sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
“As far as where it started and ended, it started and ended up front,” Steele said. “Those guys did a really nice job of changing the line of scrimmage and creating negative plays.”
Steele also praised his defense for buying into the effort of play and staying focused only on what they can control.
“The only thing you have control over is your job, your technique, and your responsibility on that play of the game. Then line up and do it all over,” Steele said.
Looking toward Clemson, Steele seems confident that the transition from a Sun Belt opponent to the defending national champions only has an effect on the team if they let it affect them.
“We’re not going to let it have an effect on us,” Steele said.
Clemson is led by newly-named quarterback Kelly Bryant, who Steele said reminds him a bit of former Clemson star Deshaun Watson.
“Physically looking, he’s a tall, slender, powerful build guy," Steele said. "He throws a very good ball and runs really well."
Steele, who previously coached at Clemson, said that his team will be walking into a typical SEC environment, but his defense will not be intimidated in their first road challenge.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, what time we play, or where we play," Steele said. "It’s about us.”