With their backs against the wall for seemingly all sixty minutes, Eugene Asante and the Auburn defense prevail, allowing Auburn to escape with a win in Berkeley.
Auburn fans, meet Eugene Asante; a name surely to be a household one from here on out. The junior linebacker out of Alexandria, Virginia, might have played his best football game of his life, as the Auburn Tigers (2-0, 0-0 SEC) head back to the East coast, winning 14-10 against the Cal Bears (1-1, 0-0 PAC12).
The former ‘scout team’ linebacker, Asante said post game, lit up the statline for the Tigers, wreaking havoc on the Cal offensive line. Credited with 12 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass break-up, and two quarterback hurries, the linebacker’s name was called in just about every critical play for the Auburn defense.
“What a night he had”, Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze said with a smile when asked about Asante’s play, “He played really, really hard”.
The statline, as impressive as it is, does not do justice to the effect and the energy that #9 brought to the Auburn defense tonight.
Whether it be open field tackles, clogging holes at the line of scrimmage, or picking the perfect gaps for free rushes at the quarterback, even the announcers had a laugh following a third down stop, saying, “We don’t even need to say who made that play, you’ve heard his name all night”.
And deservingly so.
On a night where offense was hard to come by, a nice way of putting it, all the credit in the world goes to the Auburn defense.
“I’m really proud of our defense and the plan that Ron and his staff had and the effort they gave”, Freeze praise about his defense, “And just continuing, with their backs against the wall it seemed like time and time again, continuing to get us out of trouble and give us a chance to win the game”.
The Tigers forced three turnovers as well as a fourth down stop on the first drive of the second half, all while being on the field for nearly 35 minutes. Until the touchdown drive halfway through the first quarter (Payton Thorne to Rivaldo Faiweather), the longest Auburn drive consisted of only five plays.
Credit the defense for their unbreaking mentality and physicality, starting from the first whistle of the night.
Following an Auburn turnover in their own territory and a short punt from their own endzone, the defense was faced with Cal’s offense starting at the Auburn 35 and Auburn 33. The defense only surrendered three points. And subtracting Cal’s one touchdown drive (six plays, 65 yards) the defense only allowed 205 yards of total offense the other 32 minutes they spent on the field.
“I can call [the players] up, by pointing out that this ain’t going to get it”, Freeze said postgame in regard to how he will respond to the team in the film room on Monday, “And you can do that much easier after wins than you can after losses”.
The Tigers are happily back on the Plains next weekend. They welcome the Samford Bulldogs to town in the annual homecoming game, where I’m sure head coach Hugh Freeze will be demanding his team to find a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. The game in Jordan-Hare will be its first night game of the season, with kickoff slated for 6:00 pm CT.
The term “an ugly win is better than a pretty loss” seems to get thrown around to where it's lost its truth, but this is a game for Auburn that at the end of the year will be seen as a “record saving” win. Any tally added in the win column is something to smile about, even if it comes with more relief than joy.