AUBURN — Defensive back T’Sharvan Bell was happy enough to try to blitz Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, but he knew he needed an edge.
He found it in the play clock, for it was ticking toward zero and Alabama was still in the huddle.
“I was thinking, ‘He’s not to going to burn his timeout.’ You know, ‘Snap the ball,’” Bell recalled. ” I just went with that. I timed it up real good, came off the edge and..”
Bam. A sack.
That was one way defensive coordinator Ted Roof took a shot at stopping another pass to Julio Jones on Friday because a lot of first-half passes thrown in Jones’ direction found their mark. Bell said he’s hardly blitzed this season, and, indeed, the Tigers’ defense has been so committed to stopping the run that some big-time receivers such as Jones have had big-time games against the Tigers.
Jones had 10 catches for 199 yards in Auburn’s stirring 28-27 win over Alabama, and the challenge in the form of another top SEC receiver awaits the Tigers in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday.
Auburn should know what’s in store. South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery lit up Auburn for eight catches and 192 yards and two touchdowns when the Tigers rallied to beat the Gamecocks 35-27 on Sept. 25.
Auburn will be committed to stopping the run, but don’t think the Tigers won’t take a peek at Jeffery.
“You are going to have to find ways to put him in double teams and things like that,” said safety Zac Etheridge. “I don’t think no one person in the SEC can really guard him one-on-one right now.”
Auburn, No. 1 in the BCS, has found the right balance in its defense by the end of games, considering the Tigers are 12-0 and are a win away from playing for the national championship. South Carolina is 9-3 and winners of five of its last six.
Jones had 10 catches, Jeffery eight catches and Georgia’s A.J. Green and Arkansas’ Greg Childs had nine catches each against Auburn this season. The Tigers are second in the SEC and 10th in the nation in run defense while checking in at seventh in the SEC and 76th in the nation in pass defense.
Roof is not one to single out the secondary for blame.
“We’ve got a stern message for all of us. Let’s get a lot better real quick. That’s the message,” he said.
Auburn’s strategy was seen in the first meeting with South Carolina.
The Tigers held tailback Marcus Lattimore to 33 yards on 14 carries and frustrated the run game so much that the Gamecocks had to throw. All Lattimore has done, otherwise, is rush for more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season.