Tackle vs Georgia State

Linebacker Chandler Wooten makes a tackle against Georgia State

The No. 22 Auburn defense is looking forward to building off its second-half performance against Georgia State this weekend against LSU.

In the second half on Saturday, the Tigers allowed zero points and only 85 yards of total offense. Safety Smoke Monday also added a late interception returned for a touchdown to seal the homecoming win over the Panthers.

“I’m proud of returning three touchdowns in my career,” Monday said. “I mean, that's something I always wanted to do growing up, just score touchdowns, basically.”

Monday and company rallied together in the second half against Georgia State to set up the offense for a last-minute comeback victory. 

After giving up 21 points in the second quarter, the Tigers battened down the hatches after halftime and shut down the spread option offensive attack of the Panthers.

“To be honest, we really didn't change that much in the game plan,” Monday said. “We just basically went out in the second half and we just wanted it more than they did. And I feel like that's what we got to come out to do against LSU. We got to start fast and finish things.”

Getting off to a fast start will be key against the Bayou Bengals on Saturday if Auburn hopes to get its first win in Baton Rouge since 1999. 

Defense against the pass hasn’t exactly been the strong suit of this Auburn team, and the LSU Tigers rank fifth in the SEC with 297.8 pass yards per game while the Auburn defense ranks ninth in the SEC for pass yards allowed. 

“We just got to keep getting better every week with communication, and just keep doing what we do,” Monday said.

Communication issues were evident against the Panthers, especially on two red zone plays that led to touchdowns in the second quarter. On those plays, Georgia State had receivers wide open in the endzone, allowing them to build a lead going into halftime. 

“We just got to communicate better,” Monday said. “As a defense, that's what it comes down to. We just got to know each other, and just communicate the plays that we have ... It's just communication is really all that it is.”

On Saturday against Georgia State, the Auburn defense missed two of its starting linebackers, Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe. McClain was on the sideline for the first half due to a targeting penalty against Penn State that forced him out of the game. Pappoe did not dress against Georgia State after suffering an apparent leg injury against Penn State.

“Getting Zakoby back in the second half was a big part of our defense,” Monday said. “Everybody knows that he's one of the souls of our defense. I just feel like that guy right there, he's just a baller man. When he's in the game, he just makes everybody around him better.”

Head coach Bryan Harsin and the Tigers will head to Louisiana to take on LSU on Saturday to kick off conference play for the 2021 season. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. in Death Valley and the game will be televised on ESPN.

“We’re very excited,” Monday said. “We know we haven’t won in Baton Rouge in a long time, but I feel like we’re going to break that streak come Saturday.”

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