Gandy Says Georgia Week Has A Different Feel

Auburn safety Steve Gandy talks about the match-up with Georgia and the challenge of facing a talented offense.

Auburn, Ala.–-For redshirt freshman safety Steve Gandy the entire 2005 season has been a learning experience. From getting his first college action to his first SEC game experience to his first career start, Gandy has seen it all this season, but admits this week has been a little different with rival Georgia on the schedule this week.

"I noticed Sunday when we came out the attitude was different," Gandy says. "Everybody knows these are two of the most important games of the season. Hands down our two rival games. It's one of the big games for us and I think everybody's taking that approach to it."

Last season the Georgia game was a huge one for an Auburn team looking to get respect from the national media. Despite a dominating performance against the Bulldogs it didn't come. This time around respect is still something the Tigers are looking for, but more important is the desire to finish the season out strong for a group of seniors that have been vital to one of the most successful runs in Auburn history.

"I know last year the seniors were all focused," Gandy says. "This year A.T. (Antarrious Williams) and Travis (Travis Williams) and Marcus (Marcus McNeill), this is a big game for them. They want to leave on a high note as seniors. They're going to make sure the younger guys stay focused and they're going to be focused. I think everything will go good this week."

Gandy has 21 tackles and an interception this season.

Since the 2002 season Auburn has an overall record of 37-11, including a 23-7 mark against SEC opponents. Going back to the 2000 season the Tiger are tied with Georgia in SEC play with a 34-12 mark in conference games.

This season the Tigers find themselves one-game back of both Alabama and LSU in the race for Atlanta, a place they're hoping to bet back to for the third time since 2000 and in back-to-back seasons. To do that Auburn needs some help from of all teams Alabama this weekend when they play LSU in Tuscaloosa. Gandy says that while they hope Alabama wins they can only control what they do on the field.

"I just look at each game Auburn plays because it we don't win it doesn't matter," Gandy says. "It doesn't matter if Alabama or LSU wins because we've got to win. We'll probably watch a little bit with our game being the later game. I'm rooting for Alabama. I hope they go out and beat LSU, but we have to win for it all to happen."

For the Tigers to come away with a victory between the hedges Gandy will likely have to play a very good game against one of the top weapons in the league. Georgia tight end Leonard Pope is perhaps the top NFL prospect in the SEC and back-up Martrez Milner is also a big-play threat for quarterback D.J. Shockley. Gandy says that without a doubt they're the number one threat for the Auburn safeties this week.

"As a strong safety I'm going to have to cover the tight end a whole lot," Gandy says. "I think Pope is like 6-7 and the other guy is 6-4 or 6-5. They're huge, they're muscular and they can run and jump. That's what sticks out the most to me along with Shockley because he can run and throw."

Slowing down Thomas Brown will be a focus for the Auburn defense this week.

Out two weeks ago in Georgia's loss to Florida, Shockley has been practicing all week and is expected to be close to 100 percent for this weekend's game. Gandy says that the challenge of stopping him is something the Tigers have prepared for and now they get to find out if they're up for the job.

"He's probably one of the most mobile quarterbacks we've played," Gandy says. "He can run. We were watching film on him and he will pull the ball down and run. Playing against Reggie Ball helps a lot. We know the task at hand. We know what we're getting into. This late in the season there are no excuses.

"We've watched film on them and they've watched film on us. I know he's hurt, but he'll still be at his best because this is a rivalry game and they've got to win to go to the SEC Championship. We've got to win to have a shot also. Everything is going to be on the line."

Auburn closed out the week of preparation for Georgia with a hour and a half practice in shorts and shoulder pads inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that the team has everything in and is now just waiting to play the game.

"It was a nice cool practice today," Tuberville says. "There was a lot of energy and a lot of spirit. The guys are looking forward to the trip to Athens. We went into the stadium and worked on a few special things. Everybody looked healthy and ran around good, all of the receivers and Brad Lester and Duckworth (Timmy Duckworth). We're ready to go.

"We normally haven't done this for the Georgia game," he adds about going in the stadium. "We normally do it for Alabama when we're playing on the road. We'll go back in next week. We feel like it helps all of our guys and gets their spirits up. It breaks the monotony of doing the same things every day. Getting a little cooler weather doesn't hurt. That really helped today. We went a little bit longer, we had more things we wanted to work on."

Kickoff for Saturday night's game is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN. Auburn leads the all-time series 52-48-8 with the Bulldogs and have outscored them 1,619 points to 1,618 points in 108 meetings.

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