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A spirit that is not afraid

Defense dominates in win over Akron

<p>Owen Pappoe ahead of a game against Akron on Sept. 4, 2021, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.</p>

Owen Pappoe ahead of a game against Akron on Sept. 4, 2021, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

In the opening contest of both head coach Bryan Harsin's and defensive coordinator Derek Mason's Auburn careers, the Tigers stomped out Akron, 60-10. 

The Tiger defense was on full display against the visiting team, forcing six sacks and 11 tackles for loss while holding the Zips to just 21 yards rushing. 

“The D-line played well tonight, the linebackers played well like always,” said safety Smoke Monday. “We are going to have a great defense.”

From the first play of the game, which was a Derick Hall tackle in the backfield, Auburn’s defense dominated. By the end of the first quarter, Akron only had amassed 14 total yards. On 11 rushing attempts, the Zips had negative two yards. 

EDGE rusher T.D. Moultry was all over the field for the Tigers, tying the team lead in tackles with seven. Moultry had one sack and three tackles for loss en-route to arguably his best game as a Tiger. 

“Really, the most important thing is just doing my job,” Moultry said. “With the team, who we are, we hold ourselves to a high standard. Our defense did our thing.”

Harsin added his thoughts postgame as well.

“I thought the defense overall was flying to the ball,” Harsin said. “We tackled well. We were relentless in our pursuit to the ball.” 

It would take the Zips offense almost to the end of the first half to cross mid-field and it would take until the start of the fourth quarter for the Zips to get on the board, already trailing 53 points. 

With the Auburn offense totaling scores early and often, the defense found themselves going up against Akron’s offense on fourth down. The Zips went for it five times on fourth, only getting a first down twice. 

Third down for the Zips was not much better, as the Auburn defense held the visitors to three for 14 on third down plays.

By the end of the game, the Zips netted 212 yards, most of which came in the second half when the starters were out of the game.

“First things first, you have got to stop the run,” Hall said. “Keeping the edge and bringing that pressure is very important.”

If there was a place the Tigers could improve, Monday said it was in the secondary. Both Zips’ quarterbacks combined for 22 for 27 for 191 yards passing. While a lot of that yardage was in garbage time, Monday expects better. 

“I still feel like we have room to improve,” Monday said. “In the secondary we have got to step it up a little bit more.” 

The Auburn defense, in its new look debut, led every statistical category and even threw in a safety for good measure. But the players think there is still more work to be done. 

“I think this is a great start,” Hall said. “Obviously it is not perfect because we did not pitch a shutout, but I think we are moving in the right direction very quickly.” 

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