Auburn, Ala.--It happened quicker than anyone expected but there was Steve Gandy on Saturday in the starting lineup for the Tigers at weak side linebacker. With senior Karibi Dede sitting the game out after getting banged up against LSU, it was time for Gandy to get back on the field and he says that he can't be more thankful to be playing the game he loves.
"It's just a blessing from God," Gandy says. "I'm just so excited to get back out there. I felt really comfortable. My leg didn't hurt at all. I just thank God for the opportunity to get back out there and play."
Gandy looked comfortable at linebacker and had several big hits against the Bulls.
Not only was Saturday the first game of the season for Gandy because of leg surgery during the preseason, it was also the first game for him at linebacker. Down to just below his playing weight from last season when he lined up in the secondary, Gandy says that it felt good to get back on the field but he had some moments where he felt the rust from not playing.
"It was a lot different," Gandy says. "I haven't gotten totally comfortable at linebacker yet. I'm still adjusting and looking for stuff to read. As each game goes on I think I'll get better and better.
"I think I played pretty good," he adds. "I think I was a little rusty in some of the stuff I usually do better than others but overall I think I played pretty good. I'm going to improve each and every week. For my first game I really think I did good."
Defensively it felt like the opposite of last week's performance against LSU when the Auburn defense dominated until two late drives gave the visitors a solid total yardage output. Buffalo came out early and put Auburn back on its heels. In fact 76 of Buffalo's 198 total yards came in the first quarter. For Gandy that's way too many and he says that Auburn had it coming to them because of the way this week has gone since the big win.
"You play like you practice," Gandy says. "I didn't think we had a great week of practice. That's kind of common from a big win like the LSU win but we try to keep the tempo up as much as possible. I could kind of tell during the week that it wasn't going to be as good of a game as we could play. Obviously that showed out there on the field. We got the W and that's the most important thing. Now we're back in the SEC so the tempo will pick back up tomorrow."
Because of the short week this week with South Carolina on Thursday night, Auburn will get back to work Sunday with what amounts to a Tuesday practice for a normal week. Gandy says that's good for this team because they have to be ready for anything facing South Carolina. One guess is that you'll see a different Auburn defense beginning early this week.
"We can't take anybody for granted," Gandy says. "I'm kind of glad it happened. It's good it happened early, better than late in the season. It's good it happened and then we came out and played hard. Now we know we have to practice each week no matter who we're playing."