Tiger Pair Step Up In Auburn Win

Auburn, Ala.--Winning a game where two third-string players play a big role is unusual in football. Imagine those two players play the most important positions on defense and the task gets even bigger.

Now have them face the most explosive offense in the country and you have the challenge that Mayo Sowell, Phillip Pate and the Auburn defense faced against the Florida Gators Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Missing Tavarreus Pounds, Mark Brown and Brandon Johnson for the game and starter Dontarrious Thomas for much of the game, Sowell and Pate came up big for the Tigers as they shut down the Fun-N-Gun offense and helped the Tigers to the upset win.

"I can't say enough about Phillip and Mayo," cornerback Roderick Hood said. "They're young and don't have a lot of playing experience, Phillip didn't have any playing experience until this game, and they just stepped up. They had faith and we had faith in them…we had faith in each other and that was a big confidence booster to them."

Hood's counterpart in the secondary, junior Rashaud Walker, agreed with Hood on the importance of Sowell and Pate to the defense.

Walker steps up to Todd Johnson before an Auburn punt return.

"That was real big," Walker said of the play of the two. "Mayo Sowell, Phillip Pate, Carlos Rogers is stepping it up and Karlos Dansby, I don't even consider those two young guys anymore. Mayo and Phillip Pate played a hell of a game. That's the type of effort that we knew we had to get and this is just a great victory. It feels like a dream and I don't want to go to sleep. We knew we had a young team, but we knew we could pull this victory off. We just did what it took."

An All-State linebacker from Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Sowell came to Auburn with plans of starting as a true freshman. When that didn't work out he received a redshirt and sat out learning this complex Auburn defense. Sitting back and biding his time, Sowell was ready when his name was called Saturday night.

"All week we practiced hard and I knew we were kind of shallow at linebacker," Sowell said. "I just practiced hard and I waited patiently during my redshirt year. Everybody has an opportunity to be victorious and mine came and I guess I took advantage of it."

While Sowell had to overcome the adversity of not playing as early as expected, Pate had to deal with something much more serious. After injuring his knee severely in the spring, Pate was expected to be out for at least half the season and possibly longer. Working hard to get back and play this season, Pate made his first game count Saturday night as he looked like a seasoned veteran calling signals for the Tiger defense.

Pate played a solid game in his first outing of the season.

"It's unbelievable," Pate said. "To come out and beat a team like that, words can't describe how we feel. I had serious doubts even two weeks ago that I might never be the same but I believed in myself and at the same time I knew that I had a knee that's not 100 percent. I just went out there and fortunately the good Lord was able to help me play to the best of my abilities."

Sometimes things just work out. For the Tigers, Sowell and Pate, that was the case Saturday night.

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