Auburn, Ala.--This week Auburn’s defense will face a challenge unlike any the Tigers have seen in quite some time as Hal Mumme and the New Mexico State Aggies come to town throwing the football all over the lot.
That means defensive backs such as redshirt freshman Zac Etheridge will get quite a workout facing quarterback Chase Holbrook and a group of receivers who are to a 2-1 start..
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Etheridge says. “We’ve got to work on tackling in space and get ready because they like to spread the field and throw a lot of screens. We’ve got to get ready for that.”
Coming off consecutive losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, Auburn is trying to get things back on track against the Aggies this Saturday night. Etheridge says that everyone has been a little down following last week's loss to Mississippi State, but he expects the team to be fine by kickoff time (6 p.m. CDT) on Saturday.
“It was pretty bad to lose two games in a row,” Etheridge says. “That hasn’t happened in a long time. We’ll bounce back and be ready for New Mexico State.
“You just have to learn and watch film and correct the little things that we messed up on,” Etheridge adds. “We’ve watched film on the last drives and it was little simple things we could have done to stop them.”
Auburn’s second-leading tackler this season with 18 stops, the Troy native has been a big part of Coach Will Muschamp’s plans this year after he won a battle for a starting spot over senior Eric Brock during the preseason. Now three games into the year, Etheridge says that he’s becoming more comfortablet.
“I feel a lot more confident on the field,” Etheridge says. “I know a lot more of the defense and can help some of the younger guys out now. I’m real comfortable with things.”
Etheridge (4) is shown in action vs. the South Florida Bulls.
Even though Brock didn’t win a starting job right away, he has handled that role since sophomore Aairon Savage was injured in the season opener against Kansas State and missed the South Florida game completely. Savage came back to play in a reserve role against Mississippi State last week, something Etheridge says makes him hopeful that things will improve even more this week.
“It helps a whole lot,” Etheridge says. “Savage came in after the ankle injury and played well. He had a good game last week. He had to step up and play even more because Brock got a little ankle injury himself. He’ll be fine this week.”
Auburn has faced two offenses that spread the field, but in completely different ways. In the opener Kansas State threw the ball 58 times and against South Florida the Bulls ran a no huddle attack built around the running game. Etheridge says that the experience of facing Josh Freeman and Kansas State to open the season can only help the defense get ready for “Mumme Ball” this Saturday because at times Auburn will have many as six defensive backs in the game to guard against the spread attack.
“That should help a whole lot,” Etheridge says. “Kansas State gave us a good look at a team that will throw the ball, but this team is a whole lot different. Their screens are like runs for them. We have to make a lot of open field tackles this week.”
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