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Auburn Has A Winner In Paul Rhoads

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By Jay Coulter

Give Tommy Tuberville credit. He picks new defensive coordinators about as often as we grab another beer from the cooler on game day. And just like the beer, they seem to get better with each new one.

While the off-season was spent talking about the spread offense, new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads was busy putting his stamp on a defense that was down right nasty at times Saturday night. Who cares that Will Muschamp was 1,000 miles away auditioning for the Baylor head coaching job. Tuberville appears to have hit paydirt with Rhoads.

A day after reviewing the game tape Rhoads was still smiling. "You work so hard and shutouts are hard to come by," said Rhoads. "Anytime you can walk away with one, you feel pretty good about yourselves."

"I thought we tackled decent, not great, and if you are going to be a great defense you have got to tackle great," he said. "We missed eight tackles as a unit and eight tackles is too many. It was spread out amongst a number of guys and they were all fundamentals we can correct and coach as we continue to teach."

Coach, with all due respect, we'll still take it.

ULM is certainly not LSU. Let's not get the acronyms confused. But as first games go, it's hard to imagine things being any better. And let's not forget the number of new faces on the field. I hope you tore the player listings from the Auburn Football Illustrated and took it with you in the stadium. If not, you were lost by halftime.

No one had a bigger first outing as a starter than sophomore defensive end Michael Goggins. The Alexander City native admitted to being nervous to the point of nearly getting sick before kickoff. It didn't take long for the butterflies to pass.

On the first Auburn defensive snap of the season, Goggins picked up a fumble caused by Antonio Coleman and raced into the end zone for the first score.

"It was like a dream or something," he said. "I almost didn't know what to do. There was the ball and there was the end zone."

"It got my confidence up and got the jitters out," said Goggins. "It's a defensive lineman's dream to recover and fumble and score. I wasn't even waiting on it. I wasn't thinking we would start the game that way, but Antonio came out and got the sack, and I was able to scoop and score."

Things get considerably tougher next week. Don't let the pundits fool you. Southern Miss is dangerous and the defense will get a much stiffer test. The Golden Eagles run a no-huddle, spread offense that was quite effective in week one. They racked up 633 yards of total offense in a 51-21 win over Louisiana-LaFayette on Saturday.

Rhoads and his group will primarily be focused on one player, junior preseason All-American Damion Fletcher. Fletcher rushed for 222 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns in the opener. Not too shabby.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora says Hurricane Gustav should have no effect on their game week preparations. "We practiced last night in the rain which is nothing out of the ordinary for us, so the guys were fine," Fedora said. "We have a plan for whatever can happen, but do not anticipate it being that bad in our area. I think most of their families have been taken care of and everyone can just get ready for Auburn."