AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn’s defense has given up a lot of yards and too many explosive plays.
Ford leads Auburn with five sacks despite missing the first two games with an injury.
But when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, the defense has risen to the occasion and come up with big play after big play.
“In the fourth quarter, we just look at each other like our back’s are against the wall but we’ve been through worse. We definitely try to deliver in the fourth quarter,” senior defensive end Dee Ford said. “That just shows a lot of maturity and a lot of trust that we have on this defense, and on the offense.”
Ford delivered the big plays to stop Texas A&M’s final drive and preserve a 45-41 upset win Saturday. He sacked quarterback Johnny Manziel on second down and caught him again on fourth down to end the threat.
“That last sack is a credit to the defense,” Ford said. “It was a blitz and I knew I had to contain the blitz and that they were going to flush him to me, and I just needed to make the play, and I made the play.
“...It was huge. It was huge. I definitely think we made a huge statement. We definitely put Auburn back on the map.”
The final sack set off a big celebration at Kyle Field with Auburn’s players and coaches including Gus Malzahn.
“It's priceless. It's the best feeling ever,” Ford said. “I kind of got caught up in the heat of the moment for a minute. You just think about everything you've been through. To get to that point and really execute and things that we always talk about. It just kind of reveals to us, everything you listen and you buy in and just play like you know you can play, at the levels you can play.
“It's a great feeling to persevere, especially in a hard circumstance like that. We're in College Station. Our second big away game, and after we laid an egg our first big away game -- everything was just so overwhelming. It was crazy.”
The depth on Auburn’s defensive line -- defensive line coach Rodney Garner rotates around a dozen players -- has allowed the group to stay fresh and make plays in the fourth quarter.
“I feel very fresh. I think I played about 45 plays. I was definitely able to come up big, come off the ball just like it was the first quarter,” Ford said.
The win vaulted Auburn up the polls to No. 11 and has the Tigers right in the thick of the SEC West race and perhaps even more.
Ford, a senior, already had high expectations for this year’s team going into the season. Now, those expectation are shared by a lot of Auburn fans.
“You can't help but hear about it from fans, Twitter, with all the social media. We try to block it out. But I think I would be lying if I told you I didn't look and see that we were No. 11 in the nation. That's pretty huge,” Ford said. “But we definitely want to enjoy the moment, enjoy the feeling, but kind of just move forward and just know that this is only temporary. It's only temporary.
“We've just got to keep working, and like I said, stay focused and keep our composure, just keep working at practice. Malzahn said we're not going to do anything different. We're going to keep doing the things that we've been doing to get us to this point. We're not going to change anything. We're just going to keep moving forward and keep fighting.”
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