Auburn fires defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Auburn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson a day after giving up 55 points to rival Alabama.

Tigers coach Gus Malzahn announced the firing Sunday following a late-season slide that ended with a 55-44 loss in the Iron Bowl.

The 20th-ranked Tigers gave up 539 yards to the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday night in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl. They allowed an average of 483 yards and 39 points over their last six SEC games, losing four of them.

“At this time I felt it was best for our program to make a change with our defensive coordinator,” Malzahn said. “Ellis is a true professional and I would like to thank him for his contributions at Auburn.”

Auburn’s defense made several key stands in close games en route to a Southeastern Conference title and the BCS championship game last season, but couldn’t duplicate that feat.

Johnson was fired after going 0-12 in his lone season as head coach at Southern Miss. But he had successful stints running the defenses at Clemson, Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina during a four-decade coaching career. He has spent 18 seasons in the SEC.

“This is part of the business and I totally understand,” Johnson said. “I did think we were good in several areas, but overall it wasn’t good enough. I’m disappointed for our players, but this is a results business. I want to thank Coach Malzahn and Auburn for the opportunity the last two years.”

The Tigers were especially weak against the pass and didn’t have a consistent pass rusher with defensive end Carl Lawson out for the season with a knee injury.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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