That may have been true for much of the 2003 season, but on Wednesday quarterback Jason Campbell's performance was a major reason why the Tigers earned a 28-14 victory over Wisconsin in the Music City Bowl. The junior had 138 yards through the air and added another 67 on the ground to earn MVP honors in the game. Finishing the season at 8-5 was a big goal for this team after a disappointing regular season and Campbell said this was a big win for his team heading into next season.
"This was very important for us as a team," Campbell said, "especially for our coaches and our seniors that are going out. We went through a lot over the last month and our coaches showed a lot of courage and leadership by reacting in a positive way. Our seniors have done a great job of leading us. For us to come out and get a win today was good for the family of Auburn. It means a lot to the ones that are coming back next season and the ones that are leaving out."
While Williams and Brown both had solid days with 68 and 62 yards, respectively, on the ground, it was clearly Campbell that set the tone for the Tigers. Despite his heroics on the ground it was a late throw to Jeris McIntyre for 51 yards that led the offense to the eventual game-winning touchdown. Earning the MVP honor was obviously something Campbell was happy about, but it was no surprise he gave all the credit to everyone but himself.
"Winning the MVP award is definitely a confidence builder," Campbell said. "The only way people win MVP awards is because of the way their teammates play and their coaches coach. My teammates did a great job playing today. They made plays. My coaches did a great job of getting us prepared for this game. I won the MVP and that's very good, but at the same time it's a team award."
Jason Campbell addresses the crowd after winning the Music City Bowl MVP.
In addition to his passing on Wednesday, Campbell was a terror on the ground with big runs in key situations to keep scoring drives alive against the Badgers. While a few were designed quarterback draws called by Coach Hugh Nall and the offensive staff, several times Campbell broke open a bad play to get downfield and earn positive yardage. He said that was one of his main goals.
"They were playing a lot of man coverage and they were blitzing," Campbell said of the Badger defense. "When you blitz sometimes you leave a gap open. I was just dropping back going through the regular play, but when I saw daylight I relied on my first instinct and that was to run and get positive yards."
Coming into Wednesday's game the talk was of Auburn's finesse and speed against Wisconsin's brawn and power. In the end the Tigers won all aspects of the game behind the play of Campbell, a satisfying end to fullback Brandon Johnson. Perhaps Auburn's toughest competitor, he said he took a lot of pride in coming out and winning the battle of toughness against the Badgers.
"It feels good," Johnson said. "We had some ups and downs this season. We ended up good against Alabama and we came out and won this game. We couldn't have had a better ending. I think we controlled the game all four quarters.
"You take it personally," Johnson added about being the most physical team. "Once the bowl time comes around all the conferences are together. You like to see all the SEC teams win. You just want to go out and show them who the strongest conference is and come back with a win."