Gandy Ready For First Iron Bowl

Redshirt freshman Steve Gandy talks about Saturday's game with Alabama and the week leading up to the game.

Auburn, Ala.-—For redshirt freshman Steve Gandy this week has been tough. Watching from the stands last season as the Auburn Tigers defeated both Georgia and Alabama to finish out an undefeated regular season, the Waynesboro, Miss. native says that this year is very different now that he's on the field and in the action.

"There's no feeling like being out there in it," Gandy says. "You can watch a million games, but until you get out there and see it for yourself, it's pretty special. Last year I didn't play in the game, but I watched it. Just like the Georgia game. This year was more special for me because I was out there and had a chance to make a few plays and help the team out. It's going to be big for me."

While the win last week over Georgia was huge for the Tigers, there is little question that this week's Iron Bowl match-up with the Crimson Tide is the highlight of the season for both teams. With pride on the line as well as bragging rights for a full year, Gandy says that it makes the week hard on and off the field.

"It's pretty tough," Gandy says. "This is one of the biggest games of the year. This is what your season is made of, one game. I think you could lose every game here, but you've got to win the last two. We won the last one, but this is a bigger challenge.

"Alabama is going to come in on their high horse," he adds. "A lot of people are talking about it, it's going to be a big game. Everyone at school comes up to you and tells you to play good. It's one of those big weeks. It's hard to prepare for and it's hard to concentrate on anything but football."

Gandy moved into the starting lineup for Auburn's game against Ole Miss.

A starter the last three games for the Tigers at strong safety, Gandy had played solid football this season with 26 tackles and one interception. Even with his physical play in the secondary, the Tigers have struggled recently, giving up back-to-back 300-yard passing games. Gandy says that the plan has been good, the defense just has to carry it out without making mistakes.

"It's just executing," Gandy says. "We've got a good gameplan. We had a good gameplan last week. I guess it's the same with every defense, the only way we get hurt is when one person is doing something different. As long as we've got 11 guys doing what they're supposed to be doing and playing Auburn football then there's no question in my mind our defense will come to play.

"Sometimes when the offense isn't doing good we have to pull their slack and vice versa," he adds. "We weren't doing good at Kentucky and the offense pulled our slack. That's what teams are all about. If they don't do good we're going to pull and do whatever we can on defense to put them in situations where they can score. I know Alabama's defense is pretty good, but I think our offense will be all right."

With Saturday's kickoff less than two days away the atmosphere around the campus is building to a fever pitch already. Gandy says that while it's crazy outside, inside the football program it's all business as they prepare for Alabama.

"Coach Tub (Tommy Tuberville) came in on Sunday and everybody was pretty serious," Gandy says. "We watched film. There was no joking around. Everybody knows what's at stake. Practice is like that too. Everybody is serious because they know we've got to win this game."

Putting the finishing touches on the gameplan for Alabama, the Tigers practiced for just over an hour on Thursday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tuberville says the day finished a good week of practice for his team as they get ready for his seventh Iron Bowl.

"It was a cold day," Tuberville says. "It wasn't one of my favorite days of practice this year because it hasn't been too cold. Our guys are excited. I don't know whether they're more excited about going home or playing a game. It's that time of year. I think it's 106 straight days we've all been looking at each other for three or four hours. It's good to have a game like this at the end of the year to keep guys fired up and intense. We had a good practice. The guys were bouncing around. We got everything in, the hay is in the barn. We'll see what happens.'

"It was a good week," he adds. "You never have to worry about practice this week because they're all into it, even the scout teams. All of the players are involved and looking forward to the weekend.

On the injury front the Tigers appear to be close to full strength with just center Joe Cope and running backs Brad Lester and Carl Stewart banged up. Stewart is definitely out with a sprained knee and will return for Auburn's bowl game while both Cope and Lester should be ready this weekend for some action.

"Joe Cope practiced a little bit, but not a whole lot," Tuberville says. "He will have a chance to play. We'll see what he does in warm-ups. Palmer (Jonathan Palmer) and then Steven Ross is ready (if Cope can't go full speed). He took a lot of snaps this week. He's 100 percent for the first time in about a month. It would be likely that he (Palmer) would start.

"He practiced," Tuberville added of Lester. "He didn't get a lot of playing time last week because of how well Kenny (Kenny Irons) has been playing. He's available."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS television. Auburn is looking to win its fourth-straight in the series against Alabama and improve its win total to 24 in its last 26 games overall.

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