Growing Up With The Tigers Vs. Tide Rivalry

Junior defensive end Bret Eddins talks about the Auburn-Alabama rivalry and the Auburn defense heading into this week's Iron Bowl.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's defense has been one of the few solid parts of the 2003 season to this point, giving up just 282.6 yards and 15.9 points per game. Even with those impressive numbers you won't find many smiles among the unit as the Tigers head into Saturday's Iron Bowl battle against Alabama.

With Auburn's disappointing season grinding to a halt, junior defensive end Bret Eddins says that although the numbers look good the defense hasn't played as well as the Tigers would have liked in losses to both Ole Miss and Georgia. The numbers have shown that on third downs, where the Rebels and Bulldogs have converted on 17-35 chances in the last two weeks, that the defense has allowed too many first downs.

"We've been frustrated lately," Eddins says. "We've played good and you can watch it and it's nothing big that's happening. It's the little things that the other team finds. It can be anywhere on the defense, but they always find that one guy that made a mistake and it breaks into a big play."

The Tigers have a chance to finish on an upbeat note in a season gone bad when they play their biggest game of the year this Saturday night against the reeling Crimson Tide. Perhaps no player on the Auburn roster knows more about this rivalry than Eddins, whose father Liston Eddins played for the Tigers under legendary Coach Shug Jordan.

Eddins and Demarco McNeil rush the passer against Mississippi State earlier this season.

Growing up in Montgomery, Eddins was around plenty of both Auburn and Alabama fans and says that makes this game even more special for players like himself and Jeris McIntyre, the son of former Auburn running back Secdrick McIntyre. Even though he admits this game means a ton to players who grew up around the rivalry, their fondness for this game isn't any stronger than others who have learned to treasure playing Alabama every season.

"I won't say we have more respect, but just growing in it maybe you have more history with it," Eddins says. "But, with respect for the game, after your first year here if you don't have that kind of respect for the game there's something wrong with you. It's a big rivalry that's respected here and across the country regardless of the two team's records. Once you've been here it takes you a full year, but you understand the rivalry."

Getting a victory over Alabama won't take away the disappointment of five losses, but Eddins says it never hurts to win a big game over your biggest rival. To do that he says his Tigers will need to play 60 minutes of strong football, something they haven't done this season.

"Anytime you can finish the season with a win, you go out on a sour note and that's just bad," says Eddins. "Anytime you can finish the season with a victory it's nice. We're going to have to play a lot better than we've been playing to get that win, but to get that win against a rivalry team is always a good feeling."

Scheduled for an ESPN telecast at 6:45 Saturday night, the Iron Bowl pits the 6-5 Tigers against the 4-7 Crimson Tide. This contest marks only the third time in 21 years (1982, 1998) that neither team comes into the game ranked in the Top 25. Auburn will also be playing for a better bowl berth in the postseason, but Eddins says that doesn't make much of a difference in this game where winning the state championship is what matters.

"We don't really have a whole heck of a lot to lose either," Eddins says. "There's a lot of pride on the line and everything else has kind of gone out the window except for that this year. You find out the guys that really want to work when these weeks come around. They (Alabama) are dangerous. We're going to have to go out there and play the best game we can."

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