Auburn's defense could really use some more 'blessings' this week
The Tigers are forcing turnovers at their highest rate in years. Keeping it up would be huge in a brutal 3-game slate that starts at A&M.
(Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
On Saturday night, Jaylin Simpson became the first Auburn player since Jerraud Powers in 2007 to have an interception in three straight games.
The senior safety — who is an always entertaining interview — had a special term to describe the plays he’s made this season for the Tigers.
“You know, I don’t really like to call them picks,” Simpson said. “I like to call them blessings. It’s just a real blessing to catch those.”
Auburn’s defense has been catching quite a few blessings this season, at least when you compare it to previous campaigns.
Simpson has three interceptions in three games. D.J. James sealed Auburn’s win at Cal with a pick in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. And J.D. Rhym, in his season debut, intercepted a pass in the second quarter against Samford.
Combine those with the two fumbles forced by nickel back Donovan Kaufman, and Auburn already has seven takeaways in 2023.
The Tigers haven’t had multiple takeaways in three consecutive games since 2019, and they haven’t opened a season like that since 2009.
Auburn is currently tied for 11th nationally in takeaways after finishing 113th and 112th, respectively, in 2021 and 2022. The Tigers are currently on pace for 28 takeaways in the regular season. They only had 25 in the last two seasons combined.
Now the real tests begin. After forcing all those turnovers against UMass, Cal and Samford — three games in which the Tigers were favorites — they open a stretch of three straight SEC matchups in which they’ll be underdogs to some of the most talent-laden teams in the entire country.
And Freeze, echoing his new sideline dance partner, has just the right word for Auburn’s current turnover streak.
“That would be a blessing if we can continue that trend,” Freeze said. “To get some turnovers in these games, particularly on the road, would be extremely helpful — if we can take care of the ball. We’ve got to continue to work on that.
“Turnovers would play a huge role if we could pick off a few of those in this game.”
Auburn’s defense will take all the blessings it can get Saturday at Texas A&M, because the injury report is, in Freeze’s words, “concerning.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial