When Xavier McKinney got his two interceptions against Western Carolina in the first 10 minutes of the game, fellow safety Jared Mayden said he would have to match him.
Mayden ultimately did, but couldn’t match McKinney in another aspect: touchdowns.
McKinney was able to return one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, but Mayden did not in UA’s 66-3 win over Western Carolina. Before turning the page to the Iron Bowl, Mayden looked back on his career game and what was missing from it.
“I’d like to not think I’m getting slow or nothing, just I have to hit the sideline a little bit quicker,” Mayden said. “There’s some stuff I could’ve done better to set the alignment, or line the linebackers up better to block. I’m disappointed I didn’t touch the end zone, but at the same time, I can look at that and say, ‘OK, this is what I should’ve done.’”
Even without the touchdown, Mayden has made the most of a senior season with far more playing time than before. His four interceptions lead the team and are tied with four others for the lead in the SEC; only nine players in the nation have five or more interceptions.
Among the many nuances the Auburn offense can throw at an opponent is the so-called sugar huddle, when the offense forms its huddle close to the line of scrimmage in order to quickly snap the ball after breaking the huddle. The idea is to give the defense as little time as possible to diagnose the formation, thus increasing the likelihood of a misalignment.
“Most of the time when they do that they have a particular different look that they want to give you that requires some form of adjustment,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think the players all have to stand in the sugar huddle in defense and definitely see how the players come out of the huddle. A lot of times there will be tackle over, unbalanced or some type of unusual type of formation. And then they want to quick-snap the ball so you have a minimum amount of time to get ready for it.
“I think the only way you can prepare for it is doing it in practice so the players can anticipate to some degree what they might see and that’s what we’ll need to do this week.”
No individual hardware
Alabama will not be represented in ESPN’s college football awards show on Dec. 12.
The 12 awards announced their sets of three finalists Monday morning and no UA players made the cut. Jerry Jeudy was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award (best pass catcher) and Maxwell Award (best player), joining Tua Taogvailoa as a semifinalist for the Maxwell and DeVonta Smith as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff.
Anfernee Jennings was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and McKinney was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (best defensive player).
UA will have to go up against a finalist on Saturday: Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown is a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and Wuerffel Trophy (community service award).
Click here for the practice report that has the injury update and a note on a Trey Sanders sighting.
Jaylen Waddle was honored twice as the UA coaching staff announced its players of the week from the win over Western Carolina.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson