Defense Steps Up As Tigers Top Tide Again

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Al Borges said that championships aren't won on days when everything is clicking and you are "up by 30 points at halftime."

Auburn's first year offensive coordinator said championships are won when teams find ways to win when things are not happening the way they were supposed to happen. "That is the situation we found ourselves in at halftime and I told our guys it was time to go out there and do something about it," Borges said.

Trailing 6-0 at halftime with only 112 total yards on a rainy Saturday, Borges told the Auburn offensive players the game was in their hands because the defense was doing its job in Auburn's quest to improve to 11-0. The Tigers scored three straight touchdowns after intermission to take control of the game and held on for a 21-13 victory on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We just weren't hitting on all cylinders," Borges said. "But we found a way to win the game and that is what champions are about."

Borges' boys took the second half kickoff and quickly moved 80 yards on six plays to take a 7-6 lead on a five-yard run at left end by Carnell Williams.

A 51-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu set up the go-ahead run by the Cadillac and Auburn never trailed after that. "It probably wasn't his best performance, but it was a great performance with a lot of guts," Borges said of the play of quarterback Jason Campbell. "He showed what he is made of out there today."

The senior quarterback completed 18-24 passes for 224 yards with one TD and one interception.

Auburn's first touchdown drive was followed by two more TDs on the next two possessions with Campbell on target. Auburn marched 58 yards on nine plays to stretch the lead to 14-6.

Campbell hit big-play wide receiver Courtney Taylor for a 32-yard score with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Auburn's next possession began late in the third period and was capped with 11:31 to play on a two-yard run at left guard by Ronnie Brown. Auburn moved the ball 52 yards in 10 plays for the score.

The Tigers got the ball when Alabama failed to convert a fourth down and one just past midfield. "I couldn't be more proud of our defense with the effort they gave the whole game," said defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. "They guys played so hard the whole game.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers pressures Alabama quarterback Spencer Pennington.

Tide coach Mike Shula said, "I felt like we could make it. It hurt us field position-wise."

Two possessions later, with Auburn playing soft on defense to prevent a big play, Alabama converted a fourth down pass for an 18-yard TD play from Spencer Pennington to D.J. Hall to cut the gap to 21-13 with 1:26 left.

Courtney Taylor recovered the onside kick and Auburn ran out the time to come away with their third straight victory over Bama and improve their all-time record to 5-0 in Tuscaloosa.

"We just weren't in a rhythm on offense to start the game, but once Jason got going with the passing game that change," Borges said. "The kid played a great game for us."

Campbell said that despite the first half struggles, he was confident that Auburn would win the game. "The drive we had right before halftime showed us that we could move the ball and we came right out and took the lead in the third quarter," Campbell said.

Borges and head coach Tommy Tuberville gave huge assists to the defense for the victory. "The thing could have been over at halftime if the defense hadn't of shown up as many mistakes as we made," Tuberville said. "But again, it is a team effort. We've played like that all year. I think it's only the second time in 11 games we have been behind. We never lost our poise, whenever lost our confidence. We just kept fighting back and we made plays."

Despite the victory, the high points in the first half were few and far between for the Tigers. The Tide used a big play on the opening possession to set up the first score. A 40-yard pass from Spencer Pennington to D.J. Hall put the Tide in business at the Tiger 14.

On the next play, a bad snap to Tyrone Prothro, who was lined up as a shotgun quarterback, lost 15 yards. The home team settled for a 42-yard field goal by Brian Bostick to take the 3-0 lead at the 10:40 mark.

The Tigers couldn't get anything going on offense in the first quarter and relied on the defense as the Tide enjoyed a field position advantage throughout the first quarter.

Alabama had a chance to extend the lead when Prothro scampered 40 yards on a punt return before being knocked out of bounds by Kody Bliss. That put the Tide in business at the Auburn 15. AU got out of the jam when Derrick Graves deflected a Pennington pass that was intercepted by fellow linebacker Kevin Sears at the AU three.

The Tigers moved off the goal line, but a pass over the middle thrown by Campbell was picked off by Anthony Madison, who returned it 19 yards to the Tiger six. The defense met the challenge again, allowing just one yard on three runs by Kenneth Darby as the Tide settled for a 22-yard field goal with nine minutes left in the first half.

Another turnover on the next possession, on a pass over to the middle that was ruled a catch by Cooper Wallace and then a fumble, put Bama in business at its own 46. The Tide couldn't move and punt the ball back to the Tigers, who took over at their own 16 with 5:06 left.

Campbell hit Ben Obomanu with a 16-yard pass play on the next play to start a drive that covered 78 yards on 12 plays. However, the Tigers came up empty on fourth and goal from the five when John Vaughn's 21-yard field goal hit the left upright and was no good as the clock hit 0:00 before intermission.

At the break, the Tigers had just 112 yards, with 61 passing. The Tide had 89 yards of total offense with 67 coming through the air.

Neither team had much success running the football. Brown rushed for 55 yards on 16 carries and Williams netted just 41 yards on 15 carries. Alabama's top rusher, tailback Aaron Johns, netted 24 yards on nine carries. Tide star Kenneth Darby gained just 19 yards on 14 carries for an offense that finished the day with 50 net rushing yards.

Taylor led the AU receivers with four receptions for 89 yards.

Junior Rosegreen and Montae Pitts had eight tackles apiece while Will Herring and Tommy Jackson added seven as did Jay Ratliff.

"I was so fired up there and I kept telling everybody on defense that defense wins championship," Rosegreen said. The senior safety added, "When we kept them out of the end zone when they got close, we played defense like champions."

Tuberville noted, "It was a hard ball game. We knew we were going to be in for a battle. All week long we kept telling the players. Sometimes it soaks in, sometimes it doesn't.

"We just didn't have any rhythm the first half and Alabama did something about that. The came to play and played well, and we just couldn't find the right combination in the first half.

"In the second half we kind of got more in the rhythm. We started throwing the ball down the field. We got them out of eight and nine man fronts and they just took a chance and it worked in the first half, but in the second half it just didn't work."

Auburn returns to action in two weeks at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.


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