That hard-fought decision set the stage for the Tigers to go undefeated for the first time since the 1993 season as they won the SEC title with their 13-0 mark.
Rives, who was a senior last season, must be replaced. It looks like another walk-on with good hands will emerge as Coach Tommy Tuberville's choice to hold for field goals and extra points.
Matthew Motley walked on at Auburn with hopes of catching passes and scoring touchdowns for the Tigers, but the former Opelika High quarterback says he is happy to be able to help the team in his role as a holder, something he had done while playing a variety of positions in high school.
Motley, who grew up an Auburn fan, says when he was playing at OHS he wanted to play for the Tigers following graduation so he joined the AU squad as a walk-on wide receiver. However, with bigger and faster players on the depth chart like Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Anthony Mix, Devin Aromashodu and others, there wasn't much of a chance to move into the playing rotation at those positions.
Motley was good enough in high school to receive some recruiting attention from small college programs, but wasn't interested. He did have some interest from lower profile Division I schools like Troy and Middle Tennessee State, but he didn't give coaches at those colleges any encouragement.
"I never took any visits to other colleges or anything like that," he says. "I wasn't really interested in going anywhere but Auburn so I always told my dad that I'd rather hold for kicks at Auburn than be a receiver, or quarterback, or whatever position anywhere else. That is how I came here."
Being from the Auburn area and a good player at nearby Opelika High, AU's coaches knew who he was so he was invited to walk on. He was not part of the original 105-limit preseason practice squad, but he didn't have to wait long for an opportunity.
"I thought I was going to have to try out and that kind of thing, but that isn't what happened," Motley notes. "It was a couple of days into two-a-days in the summer of 2003 and the coaches called me and asked me to join the team. I was able to go through most of the two-a-days with Coach (Greg) Knox and the receivers."
Auburn coaches had seen Motley play while watching Opelika High games. The Tigers signed several players from Opelika High, including two starters on this year's team, senior noseguard Tommy Jackson and junior safety Will Herring.
In high school, Motley broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore. "I started nine or 10 games that year of the 13 we played," he remembers. "My junior year I separated my shoulder so I couldn't play defense. They had to move me to offense and I played receiver for Will (Herring), who was our quarterback. My senior year after Will had graduated I was the quarterback."
In addition to playing safety as a sophomore, he was the holder for field goals and extra points. However, he changed kicking game assignments a year later. "Our kicker quit the team my junior year so I had to kick," he notes. "I wasn't bad, but I wasn't good either. I also kicked as a senior so I only had a little bit of holding experience when I got to Auburn."
Motley began training again as a holder last summer as he tried to find a way to get into the games. "I worked with Sam Rives a lot holding for Philip (Yost), John (Vaughn) and everybody. I got a lot of reps in and just kind of got my name out there."
Based on how he handled the assignment in spring drills this year, he should be a solid replacement for Rives.
"I am very excited," Motley says. "I don't care how many plays I am in the game--just being part of the travel squad, I guess, is something that makes you feel like you are part of the team. You get to do and see what they do and see, you get to eat the meals and see the stadiums and all that kind of good stuff."
In high school, he also played alongside Herring on the baseball team. "I was in left field while Will was in center," he notes. "My senior year, I moved to center field."
In addition to being a good athlete for the Bulldogs, he was a standout in the classroom and still is. Majoring in biomedical science, he made the SEC's academic honor roll last semester.
He hasn't decided what his career field will be. "Right now I am in pre-dentistry, but that could change to physical therapy," he says. "I have got some options in the biomedical science field so I'll be making a decision here pretty soon."
Being a walk-on receiver, who is so far down that depth chart that he is unlikely to play in a game, isn't particularly glamorous. However, he says the practices and workouts generally weren't a big problem, although there was one exception. Two years of early morning redshirt workouts with Kevin Yoxall and his staff were tough. "Pretty much every morning I woke up I was thinking, ‘Why do I do this?' But, being able to dress out for the games this year makes it worthwhile."
He says that his focus is now on being a good holder for Vaughn, who returns as the starting field goal kicker.
In past summers, Motley did wide receiver workouts with a lot of strength and speed work, but that has changed. "It is not really my job to be the biggest and fastest guy any more," he says. "I just have to be reliable. We will probably work out out two or three times a week this summer with the snappers and kickers trying to get our rhythm down. Repetition makes makes all the difference in the world."
Another walk-on, Chas Crofoot, is expected to snap the football to Motley for field goals. He says Crofoot, who took over as the starter after the LSU game last year, is very reliable. "He gets the ball to where I don't even have to turn it. He can get it down to where I can just get the ball and put it down where the seams are already facing the goal. He does real well with helping me out about that.
"Sam and all of the guys last year helped me out a lot. I used to hold with my right hand, and they were quick to tell me I can't do it that way. They said it hides the ball and all this kind of stuff."
Motley says each kicker has his own preference on how he wants the ball placed before it is kicked. "All of them have something different--lean it this way, lean it that way, straight up, laces facing straight, a little bit to the right."
So what does Vaughn prefer? "He likes a little bit of lean, no lean back, but with a little bit of lean towards me and the laces facing between the middle and the right up-right. I don't get it there all the time, but he's a good kicker and he makes it most of the time."
When asked what is the most enjoyable aspect of being a college football player, Motley says, "I don't know. I don't get much recognition, as you know. I'm not a big star or anything. Not many people would know my name. I guess just feeling a part of the team is the best part. That is real special. We complain about going to workouts and going to meetings and all this kind of stuff, but really, we enjoy it. We feel like we are really part of a team, part of something special."