Now The Story Changes To Auburn Game

Shortly after No.1 Alabama dispatched homecoming opponent Western Carolina 48-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, talk in the postgame turned to next week’s opponent: Auburn. Unlike Tide fans, Alabama players don’t discuss the Tigers every day of the year. Like Alabama fans, junior All-America safety Landon Collins can’t forget last year’s last-second defeat at Jordan Hare. ESPN won’t let him.

“It seems like they replay that (Chris Davis field goal return) every ten seconds,”Alabama safety Landon Collins winced. “That ‘one second’ took our chances away at winning anything last year. (ESPN) is a constant reminder.

“The Auburn game means a lot to us. It’s a big game for us. We’re definitely looking forward to playing those guys. Auburn has a pretty good team this year, but we have a chip on our shoulder.”

The key to beating Gus Malzahn’s Tigers? “We stand by our (defensive) concepts, focus on what we have to do, and just ‘ball out,’” Collins said. “Finish. Play our concepts. Play hard. Take nothing for granted.

“We weren’t thinking about next week (when the team came out flat Saturday), but we were ready to get this one over with.”

Collins led the Tide with seven tackles.

Senior H-back Jalston Fowler said, “We’ve been waiting for this next game a LONG time.”

Senior safety Nick Perry agreed. “For a game like Auburn, getting ‘up’ is not hard at all,” he said. “You have to play every game like it’s your last game. It shouldn’t matter who you’re playing. They beat us last year, so we’ve got to go out there and play our best football. That is always our biggest game of the year.

“It’s a rivalry game. Anything can happen. I’ve been here five years, and it would mean a lot for me to go out on top in my last Iron Bowl.”

To slow down Malzahn’s hurry up, no huddle offense led by senior quarterback Nick Marshall, Perry said the keys are “be responsible for your job. Don’t try to ‘do your own thing.’ Auburn does a lot of misdirection.”

Junior center Ryan Kelly grew up in Ohio, but he’s quickly come to realize how big the annual Alabama intrastate war is. “Obviously, it’s a big game, every year. Auburn’s got a pretty good team this year. They play everybody tough. We have to be ready.”

Junior linebacker Reggie Ragland has played against the Tigers but next week will mark his first start against Auburn. “It’s a big ball game we’ve got coming up,” he said, “and we want to do whatever it takes to beat them. You want to beat them after what happened last year. It’s been in the back of our minds since that game. When you get ready for an offense like that, you’ve got to watch film, play your keys, and if you don’t come out right for this game, you may get beat.

“We’ve got a 24-hour rule (after games). Then, we move on to the biggest rivalry in college football.”

Also making his first Alabama-Auburn start will be senior quarterback Blake Sims. “It’s an honor just to be able to play in it,” he said. “I’ve waited five years for it. Auburn’s got a great team, and they play with a lot of passion.” Sims finished 17-for-25 passing for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception Saturday.

Sophomore receiver Chris Black, who played well against Western Carolina with 101 yards on six catches, could play a bigger than usual role against the Tigers after freshman Ardarius Stewart suffered stretched knee ligaments Saturday. “I hope I get an opportunity,” Black said. “If I do, I do. We’ll see how it goes this week at practice.”

Black was happy with his 101- yard contribution Saturday. “It feels great. I haven’t done that since high school, so it’s definitely something to be proud of and to build on.”

Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Allen says the Tide will try to approach the Auburn game on an even keel. “We take all of our opponents seriously,” he said. “We have to look at film to prepare for next week.

“There’s only one goal this season: to win the national championship. We have to take it one game at a time to do that.”

Added junior cornerback Cyrus Jones: “It’s no secret how big of a game this is for us – the tradition, the whole community. It’s just big for us to come in and prepare like we are supposed to, to come out and put a good effort on the field.”

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