Players Realize Iron Bowl Showdown Is Big

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn senior Joe Cope says when the Tigers line up on the field in the Auburn vs. Alabama game on Saturday as an Auburn player you realize that you are playing for more than just yourself and your teammates.

Cope says that going back to his early childhood days in Andalusia, he can remember fans choosing sides on Iron Bowl week and getting excited about the annual Tigers vs. Tide showdown. He remembers his parents going to the games to cheer on the Tigers.

After missing last year's win over Alabama while recovering from an injury, the senior says he is on a mission to make sure he goes out a winner in his final chance to play vs. the Tide. "It's a huge game and we will be ready," he says.

Although fellow senior Kenny Irons didn't grow up in the state watching the rivalry as a youngster, he says he believes he knows how important it is, too. "I know when I am out there in that game guys like Carnell (Carnell Williams), Ronnie (Brown) and Rudi (Johnson) will be counting on me to come through for them," he says of those former Tiger tailbacks who helped the Tigers win games vs. Alabama.

Kenny Irons ran for 103 yards last season in Auburn's fourth straight victory over the Crimson Tide.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville agrees with Cope and Irons. "The players are not just playing for themselves and the coaches are not just coaching for yourself," he says. "You are doing it for the rest of the fans, the alumni, everyone who has ever been on this campus that had anything to do with Auburn.

"It's the same thing with Alabama," he adds. "You feel a little bit more weight on your shoulders. Being in this game now seven times, you can put undue pressures on yourself. We have had a lot at stake in this game several times we have played it, especially in 2004.

"My best feeling about this game is, again, let the players play it," Tuberville adds. "Take the coaching out of it. Do things that you are good at. Get them ready to play mentally and physically. Get them rested, get them to the game site and let them play.

"I have talked to a lot of other coaches who have played in rival games before. You kind of put your own philosophy together and that is basically mine. Players are going to win this game on either side, whoever wins."

The 9-2 Tigers and 6-5 Tide will meet on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The game will be televised regionally by CBS.

"This will be probably the most watched by one group of fans because they have expanded their stadium and there will be more people watching this Iron Bowl than ever before," Tuberville says. "It is just two really good teams playing each other that have a lot of history. As I tell our players each year, when this game is played, every play goes down in the history book. Everybody remembers the 2000 Iron Bowl, the 1981 Iron Bowl, among others. It is fun to be a part of history, and we are looking forward to it."

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