"Our guys fought," Shula said. "We got within a field goal (in the second half), but we couldn't come up with the plays at the end when we were within striking distance to take the lead."
Shula commented, "It was a disappointing loss where we dug ourselves some holes on some early plays. On their first play from the line of scrimmage, we get blocked into each other. Then we don't have a guy come off the block to make a play. With a guy like Carnell Williams, that's how it happens."
After a perfect punt by Bo Freelend, pinning Auburn against its own goal line, defensive tackle Anthony Bryant broke free into the Tiger backfield to down Williams for a safety. At that moment it seemed like Alabama might have stopped the Tiger momentum, but on their very next possession, Auburn receiver Ben Obomanu took advantage of missed tackles to score from 64 yards out.
"We got the safety, then on their next possession we have a play where we felt like we had the receiver tackled," Shula said. "Two defenders run into each other, (and they score). We lost any momentum we had after the safety."
A two-point conversion and field goal later, Bama was down 18-2, which is how the first half ended. But as has happened over and over during this tough season, the Tide battled back. Brandon Brooks electrified his team with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. Alabama would score two more times, but the victory was not to be.
"It was great to see Brandon Brooks ignite us there at the start of the second half," Shula said. "Of course having Brandon return the kickoff jump-started everybody. That helped start our comeback. But by the time we did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, it was too little, too late."
Time and time again this season Alabama has played poorly at the beginning of games, only to fight hard at the end. Shula was asked if he could pinpoint why the Tide has been plagued by slow starts.
"If I could put my finger on the problem, we'd obviously work to prevent it," Shula replied. "On the opening drive of the game (Auburn) makes a play, then we don't make a tackle later on. We just don't get into a rhythm offensively."
Had the Tide offense managed any production at all following the safety, then maybe the game would have played out differently. Shula said the potential is there, but the execution is not.
"We've got to continue to look at it," he said. "Our last game where we did jump out to a lead, we kept (the lead) against Mississippi State. Those are things we obviously need to work at."
Few fans expected Alabama to rally like they did in the second half. But in the locker room Shula calmed his squad down.
He explained. "We first talked about how on both (Auburn's) two big plays we weren't quite in position to make the tackle that we've got to make. We had to wrap up and challenge them more defensively.
"Offensively we felt like we were real close on a couple of things that could have kept us on the field. We made a couple of adjustments, which got us going in the third quarter. But I think the main thing was the guys' attitude got us back into it."
Without going into too many specifics, Shula challenged his athletes to play better. But in retrospect he doesn't think the talk was all that noteworthy.
"I don't know, but it probably wasn't one of my more memorable speeches," he said. "There have been one or two others this year... I just wanted (the players) to realize that we're not that far away. We're close to making plays on offense. Defense, let's wrap up and make the tackle. Then just believe that we're going to get it done.
"‘We've all worked too hard to stop right now. We've worked too hard to not believe we can win the game.'"
Ultimately, Bama's renewed effort wasn't enough to change the game's outcome. But it once again proved the squad's character.
"I don't know how much of (my speech) sunk in," Shula said. "I do know our guys have had a great attitude all the way through the season. They did in the second half."
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