In No. 10 Auburn’s first home game of the season, the touted Tiger defense stifled Tulane, holding the high-scoring Green Wave offense to only two field goals on the night as Auburn won, 24-6.
The third-down performance by the defense told the story as the Tigers held Tulane to a 2-for-15 clip on third down. A key to the Tigers stellar performance on the "money down" was keeping quarterback Justin McMillan and company away from the first-down marker. On third down, Tulane averaged 10.8 yards to gain for a first.
“Defensively we did a super job,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “Just great third-down execution. That was the key to the game, that defensive effort.”
On Tulane’s first drive of the game, the former 3-star LSU graduate transfer quarterback McMillan led his team to the Auburn 27, behind 22 yards rushing from the quarterback. A pass breakup by Noah Igbinoghene stalled the drive, however, and forced a third down. An incomplete pass followed and Tulane kicked a field goal. After scoring with 10 minutes left in the first quarter, Tulane was held scoreless until 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
On the night, Igbinoghene was blanketing his receivers, attributing heavily to the success of the overall defensive performance. Accredited with one pass breakup on the night, Igbinoghene was in on a handful of other breakups and forced throw aways.
With the defensive secondary only allowing 10 completions on the night on 33 total passes, the defensive line was able to attack the quarterback and flush McMillan out of the pocket and force errant throws.
“I felt like we put some pressure on him (McMillan). We made him uncomfortable,” Malzahn said.
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“I feel like our defense played pretty well today,” senior defensive end Marlon Davidson said. “We executed on third down and got off the field. We held them pretty well... We played Auburn brand football.”
Davidson was tied for the team lead in tackles, with Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas at six apiece. Two of Davidson's tackles were for loss.
After the field goal that gave Tulane its only lead of the night, the Tiger defense forced six straight punts, forcing three three-and-outs during that six-drive period.
After halftime, Tulane was forced to punt twice, throw an interception once and turn the ball over on downs twice.
Tulane scored its only other points of the game — a 32 yard field goal — on a 40-yard drive late in the second quarter that was ended by Dinson.
“I’m thankful for the D-line. It makes our job so much easier on the backend,” Dinson said.
Dinson ended up reaping the benefits of his stellar defensive line’s performance in the middle of the third quarter.
Tulane had driven 24 yards from their own 40 yard line, to the Auburn 40. The Tulane offense, known for trick plays, decided to pull one out on this drive.
With McMillan rolling to the right sideline, Tulane tried to slip a tight end behind the defense for a pop-pass play along the sideline. The play would have worked if it weren’t for an onslaught of Auburn defensive linemen being right in the face of McMillan as he tried to throw. The throw was forced high and long, and a diving Dinson was able to scoop the ball out of the air right before it hit the turf.
“Nick Coe and the defensive line got a good push at the quarterback,” Dinson said. “The ball was in the air for a long time and I went over and made a play.”
This play would be the only turnover the Auburn defense forced and it led to an 11-play drive by the offense that ended in a touchdown, pushing the score to 21-6.
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