Auburn secondary

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin talks to the secondary during the Tigers game against Akron

Through three games, the Auburn pass defense is allowing a completion percentage of 78.7, which is dead last in the FBS.

The Tigers are also ranked 10th in the SEC in passing yards per game allowed at 207.7, and check in at 64th in the rankings for yards per game allowed in the FBS.

“It’s just cleaning up simple things,” defensive back Donovan Kaufman said. “It’s not really a lot. We know what we have to fix. It’s not really going to be as hard, but I do look forward to cleaning up those things.”

The pass defense issues were on full display last Saturday against Penn State, where quarterback Sean Clifford completed 28 of his 32 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Clifford threw one interception on the night, a deep pass where he was hit as he threw by Zakoby McClain and intercepted then by Roger McCreary. Auburn took away Penn State’s deep options but that, in part, led to Clifford having receivers open underneath.

“We have a top-down mentality,” Kaufman said about the pass defense. “First is the zone concepts that we’re on — we just have to clean up the underneath coverage. We can all do better, just getting in time with drops.”

A boost to the pass defense would be an increase in pass rushing. The Tigers left Happy Valley without a sack after raking up nine of them in their first two games. The lack of pass rush was very noticeable, as Clifford had all day to throw. 

“We all know what (the defensive line) is capable of doing,” Kaufman said. “They will do it (in the) weeks coming on, so they’ll get better. I’m confident that they will.”

Attacking the run has been a strong suit of the Tigers through their three games, allowing only 43.3 yards per game, good for second in the FBS. The Tigers limited Penn State running back Noah Cain to 45 yards on 20 carries, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. If one thing is clear about the Auburn defense, it’s that you are going to have a hard time running the ball. 

“The first thing is you have to stop the run, and we’ve obviously been doing a good job at that,” Kaufman said. “That’s credit to the D-line and the two linebackers we have, probably the best two in the nation."

Kaufman noted how he was confident in defensive coordinator Derek Mason and that the pass defense would improve, and how it’s still early in the season. 

“His response is you got to be better, clean up techniques, little things really,” Kaufman said. “I really look at this as a learning point for us. This is a great loss. Happy it got done earlier rather than later so we know what we have to work on.”

Auburn will have this week’s match-up against Georgia State as an opportunity to clean up some of those mistakes in the pass defense. 

“Really we have to be expecting for everything because you never know,” Kaufman said. “You may see things in a game that you haven’t seen on film all week.”

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