AUBURN | Once again, it was the men in the trenches that led the way in strong performance by No. 15 Auburn’s defense in a 24-10 win over Mercer.
“I thought our edge guys, and Dontavius Russell really made some good plays,” Steele said. “There were a lot of inside runs and he made some big plays and some third down stops when they ran the ball on third and medium and third and short. The edge guys, Jeff Holland and Nick Coe and those guys, played well out there.”
Auburn held Mercer to 246 total yards and just 100 yards rushing. The Bears averaged 2.9 yards per rush and 3.7 yards per play.
Russell was credited with one tackle, one tackle-for-loss and one quarterback hurry. But just like the first two games, the junior does a lot of important jobs that don’t show up in the stat sheet.
“If you ask those linebackers who they like to play behind — a lot of those tackles, Tre’ Williams and Deshaun (Davis) and Darrell (Williams) and (Montavious) Atkinson have, it’s because they’re having to double team 95.”
The Tigers came into the game with an SEC-leading 20 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks. They compiled just three tackles-for-loss and one sack against Mercer, but Steele was pleased with the effort against an offense designed to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly.
“There were a lot of times had he not pulled the trigger as he pulled the trigger or had they not sprinted him out, it was going to affect the pass rush. That’s called affecting the quarterback,” Steele said. “Everybody loves sacks and I do too, but I look for him to affect the quarterback and get in his head so that clock is ticking really fast. Then you get over throws, you get throws out of bounds, you get a lot of things.”
Auburn returns to action Saturday in the SEC opener at Missouri. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.