Jack Driscoll looked up from his chair, his jersey stained from the field out in Jordan-Hare Stadium, with sweat dripping down his hair and the summer heat still pouring off his body, knowing he’d been beat.
Auburn’s defense got the better of his offense Thursday during the team’s first scrimmage of the fall. He knew it. He sat upright and admitted it to the world.
He wasn’t the only one. Head coach Gus Malzahn said it, too, in his report under the stadium after the practice.
The defense forced three turnovers, including a pick-six by senior corner Javaris Davis, players said, on a pivotal sixth practice in Auburn’s fall camp — and now for offensive players like Driscoll at right tackle, the only thing left to do is re-focus and try to turn the heated competition around the next time the Tigers get back on the field.
Real competition is coming soon enough, in the form of a high-flying Oregon team set to meet Auburn in Texas on Aug. 31.
For Auburn, though, the battles have already started this fall.
“They got the best of us, no doubt, today,” Driscoll said of his defense, there in the media room under Jordan-Hare after the scrimmage.
“So we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board, watch film tonight and ultimately get ready to go and get the best of them next time, because we don’t want to let them beat us twice in a row.”
Malzahn said the first-team defense “dominated” the scrimmage. With experience back at key spots across the field, those Tigers proved just how far ahead they are of an offensive group led by two freshmen quarterbacks still searching for a starter among them.
Auburn ran about 84 plays after working on special teams and third-down situations during the closed-door scrimmage, he said.
“If I was a coordinator, I probably wouldn’t have a smile on my face right now, OK?” Malzahn said, considering his feelings watching his defense shine. “That’s probably the best way to put that.”
Defensive lineman Nick Coe put it simply: “The defense dominated. The offense threw three turnovers and everything — so it’s really good for us.”
Sitting quietly in his corner of the room, left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho knew Thursday’s scrimmage would ultimately help shape his offense, too.
“Going against one of the best, if not the best defense in the country actually improves our game, too,” Wanogho said. “We know we’ve got to play up to their standard and they help us play better as unit. So that’s good for us.”
The offense will have its chance to prove that the next time around.
“From a head coach’s standpoint, you want to win. You want the defense to be as good as it can be, offense be as good as it can be, and on days like this, my experience is, one group that doesn’t do well one day, they need to respond the next time,” Malzahn said. “So we’ll see if they’ll respond.
“That’s the good thing from a coach’s standpoint, but the reality is we’re pretty good on defense, too.”
Auburn practices again Friday before Saturday’s Fan Day event at the facility.
“Overall, it was a success from the standpoint of giving everybody a chance — evaluation,” Malzahn said. “It was hot and I think that’s really a positive thing, to find who will push through, who needs to push through a little bit more, and who was flying to the ball.
“This scrimmage will really be highly graded on effort and just our Auburn standard as far as that goes.”