Tuberville Says Iron Bowl Is A Team Game

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about this week's Iron Bowl and his 2005 Tiger team.

Auburn, Ala.—-The Alabama week is different from any other around the Auburn campus. That's especially true around the football complex as the tension and electricity builds early in the week until it reaches a fever pitch on Saturday. Because of that coach Tommy Tuberville says he treats this game different than he does any other throughout the season, beginning with Sunday's team meeting.

"When we met this week, the seniors I let them talk," Tuberville says. "What was their favorite experience? We talk about the games from the past and bring it to the present. We got to each one of them ‘what was your favorite play or thing that your saw or enjoyed about your experience the last three or four years you've been involved with it?'

"There were some interesting stories, but this is not a game coaches have to get much involved in with that. You try to really step away from it because you don't want to play the game during the week, you have to play it on Saturday. In rival games that's my biggest challenge."

To keep from doing just that Tuberville likes to change up things for both the Georgia and Alabama games at the end of the year. That means watching film in the mornings instead of before practice. Practices are usually earlier in the day and sometimes even held at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tuberville says you do anything to avoid getting the team ready too early.

"The biggest challenge as coaches is to try not to over-coach this game," Tuberville says. "I try not to over-motivate and I tell our coaches not to over-coach, to let the players play. This is a game between two football teams. In this state it's the end, but it's really not.

"That game is going to be over and then we'll start working for next year," he adds. "Somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose. Somebody is going to be disappointed and somebody is going to be elated. I've been on both sides."

Kenny Irons leads the SEC in rushing yards and rushing yards per game.

The pressure of the game and of the job at a place like Auburn would be tough on some people, but not on Tuberville at the moment. After surviving the 2003 attempted ousting, he has been on strong footing with the Tigers and getting more solid by the minute. Winners of 23 of his last 25 games and three straight against Alabama, Tuberville says he hopes to be at Auburn for a long time to come.

"It's number seven for me, hopefully I'll get to number 17," Tuberville says. "The importance of this game is obviously for both teams winning, but it's the fans that are more involved in this one. You want to do what's best for your fans every year. That's the added pressure.

"I enjoy it," he adds. "I give my coaches a lot of responsibility. One guy trying to run an offense or defense and putting the burden all on yourself, that's when you kind of get burned out. I try to give everybody an equal opportunity to coach. I guess that's the reason we've had so many guys stay with us over the years. We know each other pretty well and we try to make it fun for each other. We're all good friends and it's a situation where we always feel good about our gameplan going in and we always feel good when we come out win or loss because we've done all we can and everybody has had a hand in it."

This week the challenge for the Tigers will be moving the ball on offense against the SEC's top defense. To do that will mean giving running back Kenny Irons multiple chances to get into a rhythm, something he's done in every game since he's been the starter. Last week Irons carried 37 times for 179 yards in the win over Georgia and Tuberville says he continues to be amazed at the resilience of the junior.

"He's the energizer bunny," Tuberville says. "He just keeps on going. At the end when we're on the goal line after they don't give us the touchdown and he wanted the ball. I was afraid he was going to score ‘don't score too quick'. He's been fun to be around.

"He practices hard and has obviously made a name for himself, not only with how he runs the ball, but his mental and physical toughness. This is a tough league and he gets hammered each and every week."

Looking to stop Irons will be one of the SEC's best defenders in senior linebacker DeMeco Ryans. A four-year starter, Ryans has 294 career tackles. That is just 33 short of the career record at Alabama. A finalist for the Draddy Award (Academic Heisman) and a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award given to the nation's top linebacker, Ryans does it all for the Crimson Tide and Tuberville says you can't help but be impressed when watching him play the game.

"He's very active," Tuberville says. "He uses his talent to run around and make plays in the backfield. He's very quick off the ball. He blitzes and plays man coverage. He's the perfect linebacker for college football, a guy that can do both. He'll have a future in front of him."

Entering the game with a record of 8-2 and featuring the top offense in the SEC, Auburn is looking for its fourth win in a row against Alabama. That in itself would be a big accomplishment for this Tiger team, but Tuberville says a win would just validate what has already been a remarkable season for his club.

"It has been a fun football team for us," Tuberville says. "It has been real good year for us considering we had to reload in some areas, some important areas. We had to work ourselves out of an early hole in the first game of the year and then going to play a very important game on the road and losing in overtime. We're a few plays away from saying ‘hey, it's been a great, great year', but in terms of how our guys have prepared and played and practiced, it has been a real good year.

"This will be a team we'll always look back on," he adds. "We accomplished a lot. We left a little out there, but that's the reason you play this game at the end. No matter what you're record is you try to win this one because you feel successful if you win it."

Tiger Ticket Extra: The Tigers are in good shape on the injury front with just center Joe Cope questionable for the game with a sprained ankle. Tuberville says it's the same injury that bothered Cope earlier in the season, but he played through it. He says he has no doubts that Cope will play against the home state Crimson Tide on Saturday. Wide receivers Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu both continue to improve after being banged-up two weeks ago against Kentucky and are close to 100 percent. He says running back Brad Lester should also be close to full speed.

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