September 12, 2009

Notebook: Coleman sparks AU defense

Antonio Coleman isn't known for intercepting passes. He isn't known for scoring touchdowns. Not many defensive ends are.

Saturday night against Mississippi State, the senior did both.

With Auburn up 7-0 late in the first quarter, Bulldog quarterback Chris Relf dropped back to pass on a third-and-seven-play. He connected on the pass. It was just to the wrong guy, wrong-colored jersey.

On the other end was Coleman, a big blue No. 52 on his chest. Coleman grabbed the ball out of the air, dashed 20 yards to the goal line before stretching/diving for the end zone. He made it.

The score put Auburn up 14-0 and on its way to its second consecutive win under new head coach Gene Chizik with a 49-24 decision over MSU.

"I just dropped back and read the quarterback," said Coleman, who finished the night with three tackles and the interception. "(Defensive line) coach Tracy Rocker told me that everyone gets one per year. I just jumped as high as I could and I got the ball in my hands.

"It was pretty good. I played a little linebacker when Will Mushcamp was here, so I'm used to that. I read his eyes, jumped up and picked the ball. I wasn't going to be denied (the touchdown)."

Although the Bulldogs' offense put up 24 points against the Tigers' defense, Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof had plenty to be pleased with. State posted just 297 yards on 59 plays and was 5-of-14 on third-down conversions.

The Tigers' first three-and-out of the season came early in the second quarter Saturday night. Auburn had 15 drives without a three-and-out to start the season.

"The kids executed and we got off the field on third down," said Roof. "Good things happen when you get off the field.

"I was pleased with the way we responded in certain situations. I was proud of the defensive touchdown. I'm happy with the win and happy with the way we responded to some adversity."

There were, he said, some negatives to the night.

"We have to tackle better. We give up one long drive each week," said Roof. "We've got to play smart. We've got to grow and keep working."

Roof played 22 players on defense including linebacker Eltoro Freeman, who made his Auburn debut Saturday night. Freeman entered the game on Mississippi State's second possession. His first play as an Auburn Tiger resulted in a tackle.

"That is just unbelievable," said Freeman of his first-play tackle. "It felt so good. I've been waiting a long time for that."

Freeman couldn't sleep, wait

Freeman didn't play in the opener against La. Tech. because of a hamstring injury. He wasn't going to miss another game.

With the hamstring healed, Freeman took to the surface of Pat Dye Field for the first time. He had spent the previous two years at a junior college in Mississippi.

Saturday night couldn't come fast enough for Freeman.

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