Tigers Get The Hook-Up In Win Over Gamecocks

Auburn's team unity was talked about all of last season, but this season the Tigers have struggled trying to build that same feeling.

Auburn, Ala.--A major factor in Auburn's undefeated season and SEC title in 2004 was emotion and team unity shared amongst the players. Head coach Tommy Tuberville is urging the 2005 squad to find those qualities again this season in an attempt to defend their title.

The Tigers came out of the tunnel Saturday night against South Carolina "hooked up" with their arms interlocking just like they did in late-season games against Tennessee and Virginia Tech in 2004. And following the 48-7 thrashing of the Gamecocks the team sang "Hard Fighting Soldiers" in the locker room for the first time this season. Tuberville says he feels like that is a good sign for the team as they prepare to get into the meat of the 2005 schedule.

"Our guys finally decided this past week Friday night at the hotel that it's time to give it up, so to speak," Tuberville says. "That was kind of the motto of Chette Williams' talk and my talk to the team on Friday night. It's time to give it up, give it all we've got and pull this team together as a group. Anything that we need to do as a team to make this team play closer together, let's do it."

Tuberville and the Tigers hook up before the SEC Championship game against Tennessee last season. They came out arm-in-arm in Saturday night's win over South Carolina.

Tuberville adds that the team's emotion was a big part of the success it had in winning their 12th consecutive conference game Saturday night against South Carolina.

"Playing as a group is going to make you stronger and I thought that was the first time since last year that we've showed any emotion together, pulling for each other on the field, having fun, really enjoying what they're doing together instead of individually," he says. "That's what this sport is all about--playing together as a team."

While Tuberville is trying to get more emotion from his players, he isn't just sitting back and watching it happen. He's taking charge and being emotional also, as was evident in a confrontation with cornerback Montae Pitts following the Gamecocks' only score of the game with 6:14 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the play Pitts let South Carolina receiver Sidney Rice behind him for a touchdown to break up the shutout.

"Most players know that I'll pretty much get in somebody's face if I don't feel like they're doing everything toward what the team was trying to do," Tuberville says of the stern talking to he gave Pitts. "This team wanted a shutout. I didn't want the players to have to get involved with trying to motivate Montae at the time. I felt like that was my job and my responsibility.

"Montae is a good player, a good young man and he works hard, but sometimes you need to understand what mistakes were made and you need to understand it not from an assistant, not from a player, but from the head coach," he adds. "Usually when it comes from the head coach it gets their attention pretty quick. I've had a few of those over the years and it was nothing against them. I just wanted to let him know how important that play was, not just one play of the game, but what it meant to the team to have that zero on the scoreboard."

In the fifth game of the 2004 season the Tigers seemed to turn the corner and get the ball rolling with a 34-10 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. Saturday night as Auburn improved to 4-1, that may be the case again this season, but Tuberville says his team still has improvements to be made.

"We're still looking for our identity, but I think we're a lot closer than what we were," he notes. "We're a pretty good football team, but we're also very vulnerable to not being a good team. We're still on that borderline of making our mind up that we can go out there and beat any team that we play.

"I think a lot of individuals think they can outplay some players on the other team, but as a group we've got to all feel like we can outplay, out-coach and out do anything the other team does. You have to earn that. You don't say it, you've got to go out there and earn it and I think we're getting closer to that."

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