OXFORD, Miss. – Brian VanGorder passionately wants great things for Auburn’s defense.
Saturday was another step back, allowing 251 passing yards and 200 rushing yards to Ole Miss and faulting against in the fourth quarter. That won’t change the goals of Auburn’s defensive coordinator one bit.
“Our goal is to become the best in the country on defense,” VanGorder said after Saturday’s 41-20 defeat, the first time the Tigers allowed 30-plus points under his tutelage. “I know it’s a process. But we’re getting ourselves ready to play in big games in the future, and what we do right now is vitally important – it is key what we do right now in building it. We’re evaluating to see if we’re right to make that chase and pursue that, but that’s the mission.
“There’s going to be some bumps, and obviously, we’re enduring that right now,” VanGorder continued. “But again, I’m more interested in getting better and making sure that our culture is one to play championship football in the future.”
Upon referring to the future, VanGorder made it clear this wasn’t necessarily a “wait ‘til next year’ concession.
“I don’t think that we can use the word patience in our room. I don’t think the Auburn people would agree with patience. That’s not our business,” VanGorder said. “We’re trying to speed the process up, and that requires a sense of urgency from all of us.”
Halfway through this wayward season, Auburn opponents are averaging 416.7 yards per game. If sustained, the Tigers would reset last year’s worst single-season defense (408.0 yards) in school history.
“You get what you earn in this business,” VanGorder said. “We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to coach better, players have got to play better. We keep saying that. And we’re at the ground level trying to build our house and it’s going to take a lot of work, as I’ve been saying.”
QB carousel: The decision to start junior quarterback Clint Moseley for the first time this year wasn’t solely based on performance in practice.
Sophomore Kiehl Frazier has what team officials are deeming a ‘sore arm’, and while he was in full uniform Saturday, he was extremely limited in warmups, not airing out anything longer than intermediate throws.
Moseley’s installment as the starter was declared Friday.
“We decided to start Clint when (Frazier) had a sore arm,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “So it was a decision that we had to make based on injury.”
Loeffler declined to diagnose Frazier’s arm soreness at a contact injury or one built up over time.
Neither Chizik nor Loeffler would commit to Moseley as starting quarterback next Saturday at Vanderbilt.
“We’ll go back and look at the film. I’m not really ready to say one way or the other,” Chizik said. “I thought Clint did some nice things today as the starter. We’ve got to reevaluate what happened today. He wasn’t perfect, but neither was any other position on the field.”
More Wallcat: Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace saw his largest game role of his young college career, rotating in mostly for single plays and seeing more than a dozen snaps. He is yet to throw the Wildcats, tucking and running six times for 14 net yards Saturday.
“We’ve been having a package for him, continuing to build him and grow him,” Loeffler said. “I love his toughness and how much he wants to help Auburn win.”
Missing out: This is the first year since 1999 that Auburn has lost to both Ole Miss and Mississippi State. That was coach Tommy Tuberville’s first season, a 5-6 campaign.
Hungry man: Senior linebacker Daren Bates padded his lead in SEC tackles with a career-high 16 takedowns Saturday, including 1.5 for a loss.
Bates now has 70 tackles on the year, which puts him on pace to crack Auburn’s top-ten all-time single-season marks. Bates set his career high last season with 104 tackles.
Praise for Scott: Of junior tailback Jeff Scott’s acrobatic spin move to keep alive a 55-yard touchdown reception, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, “We’ll just call that touchdown Jesus. You play until the whistle blows, and that’s what he did.”
Win one for sis: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace played with a heavy heart, after his sister, Baylee, broke her neck in a car accident earlier this week.
Baylee is expected to make a full recovery, and Bo honored her by completing 17-of-22 passes and, more importantly, tallying 290 total yards and scoring receiving, passing and rushing touchdowns in that order.
“Mom texted me during the week and just told me to worry about playing Auburn,” Bo Wallace said. “I know she wishes she was here but luckily she got to go home and watch the game. I am really proud of it.”