Ratliff: Tigers Show Heart Of Champions

Senior Jay Ratliff talks about Auburn's win over Alabama and getting ready for Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.–-For only the second time this season Auburn found itself in a hole to start the game. Thanks to a fired up Alabama team and some rotten field position, the Tigers were forced to battle from the opening whistle all the way to the end. Thanks to some inspired play on defense and a solid second half performance on offense they were able to take away a big 21-13 victory over arch rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

While much of the attention went to an offensive explosion in the second half, the true story of the game for Auburn was a stingy defense that kept the Tigers within striking distance in the first 30 minutes. Senior defensive tackle Jay Ratliff says that early on things just didn't go Auburn's way.

"The first half we started off shaky," Ratliff says. "Both offensively and defensively we didn't click like we're supposed to, but we held fast. We bent, but we didn't break. The second half we just came out and played Auburn football.

"The good thing is that when we were behind I didn't see anyone put their heads down," Ratliff adds. "Everybody was still confident. It was like it was 0-0. Everyone was still bouncing around and everybody had their composure. That's what you need on a championship team. I think we showed that tonight."

Ratliff in action against Bama.

Dominating the action after an early drive by Alabama and a late touchdown score, Auburn's defense held the Crimson Tide to just 50 yards rushing on the way to the win. Ratliff says that keeping them from running wild was a big reason why the Tigers came out on top.

"That's always the emphasis, play your gap," Ratliff says. "Every man should do their job. That's what we did tonight. I don't know if that was our best (performance). I'm pretty sure that when we go back and watch the film we made some mistakes. I don't think we've played our best game yet, but we'll try to get better as soon as we can."

In the second quarter Alabama had a chance to grab a sizeable lead on the Tigers with two chances in the red zone. The first Auburn turned away with a Kevin Sears interception and the second a stand inside the 10 forced a Crimson Tide field goal. Ratliff says that keeping the lead within a touchdown was a huge momentum builder for the team.

"I think that was very important," Ratliff says. "That was a very important part of this game. It was very important that we hold them and let the offense score. We felt like if the offense scored we would take over from there."

After surviving the early onslaught from Alabama, Ratliff says the second half was business as usual for the Tigers. Once the Alabama team settled into the game the difference in the two squads was plain to see. While Auburn was focused on the task at hand, Alabama had to come back down to earth and play football. Ratliff says by not getting caught up in the moment Auburn was able to play winning football for the last 30 minutes.

"Sometimes if you get caught up on what another team is doing you get caught up in the emotion and you can't win a game off emotion," Ratliff says. "That will only take you so far. But your technique is what's going to take you through."

All week the Auburn team had heard about Alabama's defense and how dominant they had been. While some of the younger players mentioned it was a motivational tool for them, Ratliff says that he wasn't concerned about anything other than playing the best football game possible.

"I go into a game with the same mindset and I'm pretty sure my fellow teammates do the same thing," Ratliff says. "It's not about Alabama, it's not about LSU, it's not about who we play, it's about us. We just need to focus on things we need to do to get better, little things that we need to work on. It's not about them. We feel like if we do our jobs and the little things we need to work on, then everything else will take care of itself. That showed tonight."

Auburn will now take the week off before returning to practice Saturday afternoon in preparation for the SEC Championship game against Tennessee on Dec. 4. Ratliff says that winning the Iron Bowl doesn't mean this season is over because there's still one more huge hurdle to get through before a bowl game.

"This is perfect," Ratliff says. "I couldn't have dreamed it any better. It's just perfect. We're going to treat this like any other game. We're going to celebrate, get rested up and come back and get ready for Tennessee. That's what we're going to do."

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