Senior LIneman Serious About Beating Bama Again

Auburn, Ala.--Just because someone is not raised in the state of Alabama does not preclude them from being able to ingest the heat, fire, passion and intensity that are embodied within college football's most intense rivalry, the Iron Bowl.

Hailing from Memphis, Tenn., Auburn senior offensive tackle Mark Pera says that he really could not understand what all the fuss was about before he became an Auburn Tiger. That changed a long time ago.

"It's a lot different," Pera says. "When I first got here, being from Tennessee, I knew a lot--well not a lot. I knew about the rivalry. I knew it was one of the most heated in the nation and all that stuff. But now it's like completely different once you get here and you have gone through a couple of the games. I have won two and lost two so I know both sides of that. I mean you think about it for 364 days out of the year if you don't win."

Along with not being able to truly understand the rivalry, Pera says that once he figured it out he still could not believe how intense it really was. "Definitely not," he says. "People get divorced over the tickets and stuff like that so I mean it's great, the intensity is great surrounding the game."

The offensive tackle says that once he enrolled at Auburn, he quickly learned how important one game could be, not only for his team but also for an entire state. "I think my redshirt year, the year I was getting redshirted, when we lost and the fans were not very happy after we lost that game and I was like, ‘Wow, they do take it really that seriously.' Also the Tiger Walks before the game are the best of the year and all of that stuff so you know something is different for Alabama week."

Pera has started in every game this season for the Tigers at weakside tackle. The coaches named him one of their players of the week for his performance in Auburn's victory over Tennessee.

Pera explains that he certainly did not have a rivalry back home that could even compare to the epic battle between the Tigers and the Tide. "Memphis and Tennessee was a big rivalry, I guess for Memphis, but they usually lost so that's pretty bad," he says.

As far as the 2003 renewal of the Iron Bowl, the senior tackle explains that for himself and his teammates, all losses aside, this is still Alabama week and it still means as much as it ever has.

"This game is not like any other game of the year," says Pera, who notes that it is big games like this one that make Auburn an attractive place to play college football. "The records aren't as high as each team would like for them to be, I'm sure, but that doesn't take anything away from this game. And I have just got to get prepared for it like we haven't got prepared all year."

In games that are as intense as Auburn vs. Alabama, Pera explains that he will always remember the the best parts of the games. However, he says the bad memories linger, too.

"In 2000 we won 9-0 there and 17-7 last year and just going up to Tuscaloosa and those crazy fans and just going up there and being able to win in Bryant-Denny was like a huge deal," the senior notes. "And personally in 2000 when we were winning the game in the fourth quarter and we found out that Arkansas had beaten Mississippi State, which meant that if we went on to win that game that we would go to the SEC Championship Game so that pumped us up even more on the sidelines when we found out. So, that was probably the biggest one."

"The worst was when we lost at home two years ago," Pera recalls." "I mean we got hammered pretty badly and against Alabama you just don't expect a game to be like that. So we are definitely looking for payback this year. We want to win at home."

As for the senior's personal goal for his final matchup against the Crimson Tide, he says that he and the rest of the offensive line simply want to make a statement, much like the one they made last season in Tuscaloosa.

‘If I had my way we would run it every play," he says. "I just want to run the ball. I definitely just want to make a point in this game, like we did last year. They said we weren't going to be able to run the ball because we had a bunch of injuries at running back and we just wanted to come out and establish the run against them and that is what we are going to try to do this year."

Kickoff for the game is set for shortly after 6:45 p.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN.

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