Stephen Roberts (above) makes a play in the Iron Bowl.
Auburn, Ala.--It was about developing the coaches’ trust for Stephen Roberts. With that trust earned, the 5-11, 187-pound sophomore from nearby Opelika High School has started Auburn's last three games at safety, moving ahead of Tray Matthews, who transferred from Georgia and redshirted last year.
Roberts has proven he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and deliver a hit. He recorded six tackles in Auburn’s 29-13 loss to Alabama on Saturday, but showed his grit with a couple of solo tackles of Alabama’s 6-3, 242-pound running back Derrick Henry who rushed for 271 yards and is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.
“He is a really good--a solid back,” Roberts said. “He’s tough to tackle. I was trying to get low on him. I only weigh about 185 and he’s huge.”
The game wasn’t too big for Roberts.
“I was a little nervous the first couple of series, but after that I was okay,”?he said. “I’m very happy and very blessed to have the opportunity to be in a great game. It’s one of the biggest games ever, the Iron Bowl, and it felt really good.”
At one time, Roberts might have been on the other side. He committed to Alabama, but switched to Auburn. “I really don’t think about that,”?he said. “I just wanted to play well against Alabama and put it all on the line.”
Roberts said the Auburn defense played one of its best games of the season, especially in the first half when the Crimson Tide managed only three field goals for a 9-6 lead. “That’s a win for us to hold them to all those field goals. We even got a couple of three-and-outs in the first half. It just got away from us some at the end.”
What made a difference for Roberts to earn a starting position after seemingly being lost on the depth chart early in the season? “I got into the film room, learned the calls and started executing--that was it,” he said. “I had to work my way up and got better and better each week. I proved to Coach (Will) Muschamp that I can play and that I’m a ballplayer.”
In other news and notes:
*Daniel Carlson’s two first-quarter field goals from 26 and 44 extended his Auburn record to 16 straight 3-pointers before he missed a 48-yarder with 1:24 left in the first half with Alabama holding a 9-6 lead. The Lou Groza Award finalist is 22-26 in field goals made this season.
*Carlson’s 22 field goals tie the single season record established by Scott Etheridge in 1992.
*Carlson is seventh in Auburn career kick scoring with 211. He is sixth in career field goals made with 40 (passing Cody Parkey who had 39 from 2010-13), and eighth in career PATs made with 93 and is the ninth Auburn player to score more than 100 points in a season. His 93 straight extra points is fourth best in Auburn history.
*Tiger kickers have converted 118 consecutive extra points going back to the 2013 Tennessee game.
*Rudy Ford now has 113 tackles on the season after nine against Alabama. That’s the most by an Auburn player since Dontarrious Thomas in 2001 when he recorded 121 tackles. Senior Jonathan Jones has a career single game high of 11 tackles against Alabama.
*Auburn outgained Alabama 97 to 85 yards in the first quarter with six first downs to three for the Tide. The Tigers managed only 49 yards in the second quarter after Jeremy Johnson was sacked for a14-yard loss on the final play of the first half.
*In the second half, Auburn only ran the ball eight times for one yard to finish with 91 yards on the ground for the game to go with 169 passing for a total offense of 260 yards. Alabama ended with 465 total yards--286 on the ground and 179 passing.
*Jovon Robinson rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries in the first half against the Alabama rush defense that came into the contest allowing only 77.8 yards a game. He carried twice for negative two yards in the second half. Derrick Henry topped the 100-yard barrier in the opening half with 102 yards on 16 rushes. In the second half he carried the ball 30 times for 169 yards to give him a career-high 271 yards on 46 rushes.
*Former Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton led Tiger Walk and was followed by numerous photographers as he walked with the players checking out the field. Since leading Auburn to the National Championship in 2010, Newton was the NFL’s first draft pick by the Carolina Panthers. He has led the Panthers to an 11-0 start to the 2015 season.
*Newton wasn’t the only Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn present Saturday. Bo Jackson, the 1985 winner, appeared on the SEC Nation program. Former Tiger and American League MVP in baseball Josh Donaldson was also interviewed on SEC Nation. All three were introduced during the game.
*Sue Locklar was recognized at halftime for her 38 years with the Athletic Department, including 35 years as the nation’s first female recruiting coordinator.