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Auburn safety Blake Countess sparks team, defense with early plays

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin (7) fumbles the ball and is recovered by Auburn defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin (7) fumbles the ball and is recovered by Auburn defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Blake Countess transferred to Auburn from Michigan for his final year of eligibility believing the Tigers had a chance to win a National Title.

With that goal looking increasingly unlikely, Countess isn’t packing it in. He came out Saturday for his first, and only homecoming game in a Tigers uniform as a ray of sunshine on an overcast day at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  

Countess had Auburn’s best kick return of the season to open the 35-21 win. He went 61-yards down the Tigers’ sideline to give a sold-out crowd something to cheer about.

“One thing we talk about in special teams is coming out and setting the tempo,” Countess said. “I really don’t get many balls kicked my way, but I saw it, hit it, and it just opened up for me. I was just trying to make something happen. I’m a little angry at myself because I didn’t take it the distance, but it is what it is. I think we put our offense in a good situation.”

After the offense squandered the great field position, Countess made sure it didn’t go to waste.

He squared up on San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin as the senior was trying to make a short catch in the flat. Countess’ hit popped the ball loose right into the arms of linebacker Justin Garrett.

“We were in off coverage, so I just broke on the ball and I got my hand in there,” Countess said. “We always talk about running to the ball. It just so happened that Justin (Garrett) was running to the ball and good things happen when you run to the ball. I got my hand in there on the ball, it popped up and Justin was able to catch it because he was in the right place at the right time.”

The interception was only the fourth turnover Auburn has forced this season, and set up the Tigers’ first touchdown of the game. The defense allowed more than 400 yards, but forced a total of four turnovers.

“It has been a huge focus,” Countess said, of forcing turnovers. Those are momentum plays for our defense and offense. Getting great field position has definitely been a big emphasis because we haven’t been as good as we need to be. We still need to get better as far as the turnover margin goes, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp moved Countess to safety prior to the Mississippi State game. Muschamp called the graduate transfer the team’s best safety, and nickel in explaining the change.

Countess also made a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage, one for a loss, on the edge. He finished the game with five tackles, four solo.

His day ended on a down note thanks to a pass interference call.

He was flagged with less than six minutes remaining trying to prevent Tyler Winston from catching a pass in the back corner of the end zone. On the next play, Ervin scored from where the officials spotted the ball at the goal line.

Countess didn’t make much contact with Winston as both players jumped straight up for the ball.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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