Auburn, Ala.--While Auburn middle linebacker Eltoro Freeman had heard about the speed of Florida’s offense, “The Bull” wasn’t fazed.
Noting that the Tigers have plenty of speed on their own football team, Freeman said Auburn’s success in stopping the Gators’ offense in a 17-6 victory was no accident.
“Auburn doesn’t recruit slow linebackers--no slow players,” Freeman said. “I think we matched up pretty good.”
Florida managed just 66 rushing yards vs. Auburn and was held to 194 total yards at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
After registering seven tackles against Arkansas, the senior was rewarded with his first start of the season, which was also his first start since Auburn’s victory over Alabama last year.
“It felt good to start, get back out there and help my team win,” Freeman said. “It doesn’t matter if I start or not, I’m just very thankful to be on the field and never take it for granted. It felt great to get this win for the Auburn family.”
The Auburn defense bottled up Gators’ speedster Chris Rainey for most of the night, denying him the perimeter and holding him to 2.1 yards a carry, well below his 5.4 average.
“We knew that they were going to try to get outside so we had to contain the outside,” Freeman said. “Coach (Ted) Roof, man, he’s a great defensive coordinator. We put in the game plan, and we just got to work the plan and execute, and that’s what we do.”
Freeman finished the Florida game with three tackles with 1 1/2 tackles for a loss and a sack of Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett on a third and 13 deep in Auburn territory.
“That was a weakness of our defense at the beginning of the season,” Freeman said of Auburn’s inability to make stops on third downs. “We have been hearing all of that talk and came together as a group and decided that we had to improve.”
The Tigers allowed Florida to convert only 3-13 third-down conversion attempts, leaps and bounds better than the 10 straight and 14-18 they surrendered to Clemson in September. Since then, the Tigers have steadily improved on defense despite the naysayers and negative buzz about their play.
“We’re just taking things upon ourselves as players,” Freeman said. “We hear the noise, and we were like ‘you know what, we’ve got to step up to the plate.’ And a lot of guys stepped up to the plate. We’re all stepping up to the plate.”
Freeman and the Tigers will have to step up to the plate in an even bigger way this Saturday as they travel to the unfriendly confines of Tiger Stadium to play No. 1 ranked LSU in Baton Rouge.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage on CBS. LSU, which is 7-0 this year, was 7-0 last season when it played Auburn before losing 24-17 to Coach Gene Chizik’s Tigers.
For Auburn to win again this year the offense will have to play significantly better than it has this season and the AU defense will need to continue its improvement trend.
Against Florida the Tigers shut out the Gators in the second half after leading 7-6 at intermission. Roof said the defense made adjustments that proved effective in the final two quarters.
Roof added that he is pleased with the progress the Tigers are making on defense, but is far from satisfied. “We haven’t arrived yet,” he said. “We’re not where we need to be, but I’m really proud of the strides our kids have made.”
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