The same coach who had been celebrated as a hero when his Tigers upset the top-ranked Gators was now faced with 365 days of fitful sleep and painful memories as the result of his team's 31-7 loss to their biggest rival.
Tuberville--the experienced hand at SEC football, the Riverboat Gambler--had been taken in by the new kid from Kansas. Dennis Franchione, the one who wasn't supposed to know the intensity of the Alabama-Auburn game.
Tuberville has since caught flak from rivals and fans alike for his comments regarding Coach Dennis Franchione not starting Andrew Zow all year. Maybe those remarks are a result of subconscious damage control, an attempt to shift a bit of a ponderous weight from his shoulders, because they don't sound the same as Tuberville's comments immediately after the game.
"They played a good ball game and we didn't." "That was probably one of our worst efforts."
Those aren't blame-shifting statements. They're acknowledgments of failure.
A major source of Auburn's problems was their inability to stop Alabama's rushing game. Santonio Beard rushed for 199 yards and Ahmaad Galloway 127, and the Tide averaged 7.5 yards per carry. While it might have seemed that Auburn made no adjustments geared to stopping the run, Tuberville claimed they did. "We kept overrunning the draw. We went to a three-man front, four-man front, and a five-man front, but there were still able to run it."
Even the best rushers don't amass numbers like that without great offensive line play, and the Tide delivered that in mass quantities Saturday. Galloway and Beard were often several yards past the line of scrimmage before they encountered any Auburn tacklers. Apparently, that was partly due to new wrinkles by the Alabama coaching staff. "They ran a trap play that we haven't seen, and that's good coaching," Tuberville acknowledged.
While Tuberville might have questioned whether Zow should have started all year, he did give the senior quarterback ‘props' for a great effort. "You have to give credit to Andrew Zow. He played a heck of a football game. He played the best game I've seen him play."
That offensive success was only half the story, of course. A Tide secondary that had been strafed by LSU's Rohan Davey for 528 passing yards gave up only 231 yards to Auburn. In addition, Alabama throttled the Auburn running game, holding the Tigers to only 41 yards rushing.
Tuberville recognized the Tide's defensive success; "They lined up and out-executed us. They tackled well and we didn't."
Later, he summed the day up succinctly. "They blitzed and executed.
"And we didn't."