Tuberville Says Tigers Ready To Play For Title

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Auburn's rematch with Tennessee in the SEC Championship and the win over Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.—-It has been a long time since Reggie Slack led the Auburn Tigers to a share of the SEC Championship with a 30-20 win over Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium, but that's something the 2004 team is hoping to end in two weeks.

Coach Tommy Tuberville says his team is ready to face Tennessee and take another crack at winning the big one in the Georgia Dome.

"That's what we're here for," Tuberville says. "We haven't won one since 1989 so that's 15 years. It would mean a lot for our program. We're going to win SEC Championships down the road. We're getting better each year and we're making progress. I just want this team to go out on a positive note, this senior bunch. They've meant so much to how we've built this program. I think they would obviously enjoy that part, but Tennessee is going to have something to say about that. They've got a team that has won a lot of close games."

To get to 11-0 the Tigers have had to be solid on both sides of the ball to survive unbeaten through what is always a tough schedule when playing in the SEC. That included victories over Top 10 teams in LSU, Tennessee and Georgia and a win at Alabama. Tuberville says that following a win over Mississippi State in which the Tigers dropped several passes, the players and coaches knew the key to the season was in the passing game.

Courtney Taylor prays after the winning TD catch against LSU.

From that moment forward things have been all roses for the Tigers and quarterback Jason Campbell. Since hitting Courtney Taylor for a first down on fourth down and later for the game winning score against the Bengal Tigers, Auburn has been a confident offensive team. Tuberville says that game ignited the team with confidence that they could get the job done.

"We knew that we were going to have to get the ball to the receivers to help our running game," Tuberville says. "I know we've dropped one or two since then, but not many. All the big plays and the times we've needed catches, the receivers have caught the ball. I think once our receivers started being consistent our entire offense started being consistent."

If the LSU game started Auburn's run towards a possible championship, the Alabama game might be the signature game for this team. For the first time since the LSU game the Tigers trailed at the half after the Crimson Tide came out fighting, but Tuberville says the experience and maturity of the team made a big difference when Auburn came out in the second half.

"That was an amazing locker room and I was just kind of taking it all in," Tuberville says. "I learn from every team I coach. I was just taking it in, listening to the players talk to each other and listening to the coaches talk. Nobody was in a panic mode. Everybody had a smile on their face and was bouncing around. We knew we were going to win the football game because we felt like we had the best team."

While the defense kept Auburn in the game in the first half with just six points allowed in three red zone trips by Alabama, it was the offense that put the game away in the third quarter. The Tigers scored the first three times they had the ball to open the second half to give Auburn a comfortable lead. Despite a late touchdown by Alabama, Auburn held on for the win.

"What won the game for us was defense in the first half and offense in the second half," Tuberville says. "That's the reason we're a good football team. We don't rely on one side of the ball. You throw last week's special teams in the mix with the returns and coverage against Georgia, I think that even makes us a more rounded team.

"We played a good football team in Alabama," Tuberville adds. "We walked into a trap. We knew going in that it was going to be very difficult. When you play in the SEC on the road you expect that. Our players expected it. Our coaches did a good job of preparing them for that. Because of that we never lost our poise and never lost our confidence and we didn't lose our patience. Patience is a necessity when you go on the road in this league because sooner or later you're going to have to go through it and grow from it."

Auburn now prepares for the last hurdle on the way to its goal of winning the conference championship. Taking the week off before resuming practice on Saturday, the Tigers must defeat Tennessee to keep their hopes alive for a possible national championship. Tuberville says that if Auburn holds up its end of the bargain and doesn't play in the Orange Bowl then a lot of people are going to be unhappy.

"If we win the SEC, obviously that's a major accomplishment," Tuberville says. "If you go undefeated in the conference and not have a chance to play in the championship game it would be very disappointing. I think it would be disappointing for everybody in this league to think that anybody could go through it (undefeated) and not make it and that it could happen again next year or the year after that. That's part of it. We'll have to take it one week at a time and see what happens."


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