Marlon Davidson knew what he was going up against over in Mississippi.
He knew that he and his fellow defensive linemen along Auburn’s front four would be in for quite a challenge at Ole Miss.
The Rebels boasted a powerful offensive attack. He knew Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had a quick arm and elusive feet.
And to get to him, the Tigers would have to get past a preseason All-American, in junior Ole Miss left guard Greg Little.
It’d be tough.
But the Tigers can be tough, too.
“It was just our day,” Davidson put it simply, in the moments after Auburn’s 31-16 win over Ole Miss on Saturday.
Davidson recorded a sack for nine yards at defensive end, while Nick Coe pulled down three sacks at Buck and was credited with a quarterback hurry, as the Auburn defensive front left its mark Saturday and disrupted the Ole Miss offense time and again on the Tigers’ way to their bounce-back win.
Coe finished with four tackles. Davidson had three, and swatted down a Ta’amu pass at the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown tallied three tackles, with one for a loss.
To top it, Davidson also blocked an Ole Miss field goal at the end of the Rebels’ opening series.
Auburn entered Saturday’s game shorthanded in the secondary, with starting cornerback Jamel Dean missing the trip to Oxford after suffering an injury during Auburn’s game against Tennessee last week, and with starting safety Jeremiah Dinson missing the first half of the game by NCAA rule, after he was charged with targeting in the second half of that Tennessee game.
Short of full strength in the defensive backfield, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said the coaches charged Auburn’s defensive linemen along the Tigers’ front four to pressure and disrupt Ta’amu without much blitz help from the back end.
They did that, led by Coe’s three sacks.
“Nick is playing at a high level and we really put pressure on (Ta’amu) with four guys, and that was the plan, to put pressure with four guys,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said after the win.
“That was a huge key to the game.”
The dual-threat Ta’amu finished with just 43 rushing yards, with Auburn’s 34 sack yards counting against his total. He rushed for 141 rushing yards the previous Saturday, against Arkansas.
Coe’s three sacks marked a career-high for him in a single game.
Auburn’s defense held Ole Miss out of the end zone until after the Tigers led 31-9. Ole Miss scored a touchdown in the final three minutes after the game was already well-decided.
“It was very important,” Davidson said, of getting pressure to Ta’amu with just the front four. “They have a great offensive line. They probably have one of the best that we will face. With Greg Little, he’s very talented.
“It’s just how we faced it today, just fighting no matter what, with relentless effort against a running quarterback — because that guy right there, he’s very good.”
Meanwhile, Davidson’s blocked field goal marked his third over Auburn’s last three games. He’s deflected one in each.
Davidson did it all playing through his own recent injury. He went down in Auburn’s game against Tennessee, and Saturday, entered Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in a walking boot, but still suited up to play and help lead that Auburn defensive line.
“That’s unbelievable,” Malzahn said of Davidson’s blocked field goals. “Effecting the game — and playing well defensively, too. And he’s a guy that wasn’t 100 percent.
“He’s a guy that didn’t practice a whole lot during the week, so I’m real proud of him.”