AUBURN — The Auburn defense had its first interception in 10 games in Saturday’s 51-7 thrashing of Alabama A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Trent Fisher picked off Bulldogs quarterback Deaunte Mason and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 2:38 remaining for the game’s final score.
“We were just playing a little single-high coverage and two guys on the inside, had them locked up, quarterback threw it a little far inside,” said Fisher, who made his second career start at free safety Saturday. “I’m just thankful I took it to the house.”
It was the first Auburn interception since Daren Bates intercepted Tajh Boyd in the season opener — a span of 612:15 — and the first INT by the Tigers secondary all season.
Fisher started in place of Demetruce McNeal, Auburn’s leading tackler, who had started the prior seven games and eight overall this season.
“It was really good to see him, at the end of the game, get a pick for a touchdown,” coach Gene Chizik said of Fisher, who made four tackles. “We are looking for more production at that position. That was why he got the start today.
“When you look at production, (tackle numbers0 doesn’t always tell the story. When we say we’re looking for more production, it’s because there’s a lot of other things involved than just tackling. That’s why we made the move.”
The change comes after McNeal, who was not available during the week or after Saturday’s game, had a sub-par performance against Georgia with just six tackles. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder would not say all the factors which went into the decision to remove McNeal from the starting role, though he did get reps late in the game.
“What we do and how we evaluate our players from a production ratio stand point, I’m not going to go into all those things,” VanGorder said.
“I think we all know and they know the
tackling has been an issue for us all year
long. It’s a bottom-line business and you look to improve it. Sometimes that’s a different
player, sometimes that’s open competition and that’s where we are. We’ll go into this next week, we’ll let them compete and make a decision who we think gives us the best chance to go compete.”
The timing is curious given several tweets by McNeal last week. McNeal tweeted he had been given bad news and “bottom line I’m gone” only to clarify and say it was in reference to seeing his family.
He has not sent a tweet since Tuesday.
Auburn’s offensive line had a series of lineup changes Saturday.
Left tackle Greg Robinson, who started all 10 previous games, was out of the starting lineup. Chad Slade moved from right guard to left tackle, Christian Westerman made his first career start at left guard and John Sullen slid from left guard to right guard.
“Christian, it was really the first week where we felt like he was really healthy,” Chizik said. “We kind of weaned him in a week ago and he really had a good week of practice this week. We thought it’d be a good idea to let him good some good reps and let him start his first game.”
Westerman suffered an ankle injury late in the game and Chizik said the extent of the injury will be known later.
Tight end C.J. Uzomah (right hand) started over Brandon Fulse. Uzomah made one reception for 19 yards. … Jonathon Mincy started at cornerback over Chris Davis (concussion). Mincy made one tackle and Davis had five. … Kiehl Frazier played and was sacked once. Clint Moseley entered the game on Auburn’s final possession and handed off twice.