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Kevin Steele: Defense’s performance against Clemson a ‘good starting point’

Auburn's secondary gathers on the field prior to playing Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn's secondary gathers on the field prior to playing Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s defense put itself on the map Saturday night containing Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson to keep the team on the doorstep of an upset over No. 2 Clemson.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had a pretty good view of the performance from the booth at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the coach’s initial assessment matched what he saw on film — Auburn’s defense had a good night.

“We asked the guys to play with great effort,” Steele said. “We demanded it in practice and they demanded it of each other. It became a habit. I think it showed up in the game.”

From what Steele described as a one of a kind defensive line – that played an unheard of 11 players — back through the secondary, each group did what they were asked.

Steele rattled off a number of positives from holding a “prolific” run game to 3.4 yards per carry, preventing any throws getting behind the coverage and an instinctive group of linebackers being effective in all areas.

The only significant downside Steele could find in the performance was the result.

“Our job as a defense is to make sure we keep them to one less point than what is scored,” Steele said. “That’s what has to happen and we’re not going to accept anything less than that, that’s the thing we challenge them with.”

Being the first team to hold Clemson to less than 20 points since the 2014 was a “good number,” but Steele doesn’t want to leave any room for excuses from his group.

“You need to make sure you’ve got one more than they’ve got. It’s not something we’re going to accept,” Steele said. “We’re going to work very, very hard to build on the positives of the game.”

Steele’s message this weekend resonated with Auburn defenders.

“We cannot be complacent, we cannot be happy with anything,” Auburn linebacker Tre Williams said. “Even though we did play pretty well we still have a lot of stuff to build on. Every day at practice we are going to work harder and harder to get to that goal.”

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