Tigers Read Tide Like a Book

The Auburn defensive line was the difference in the last two Iron Bowls.

Auburn, Ala.--The disparity between the Alabama offensive line and the Auburn defensive line has been the telling story in the last two Iron Bowls.

Everyone remembers Auburn ends Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves blowing past Tide tackles Kyle Tatum and Chris Capps, and noseguard T.J. Jackson dominating Taylor Britt in the middle as the Tigers rang up 11 sacks during the 2005 victory.

With all-star recruit Andre Smith stepping in at left tackle for the Tide, Tatum and Capps were assigned to slow down Groves off the right corner for the 2006 edition of the Iron Bowl. But neither of those players could get the job done, so center Antoine Caldwell was at times moved outside and relegated to stopping Groves.

When Caldwell moved from the middle to the outside, the opened the door for defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks to have possibly the best game of his young career. And while Smith was able to hold down Marquies Gunn for the most part, playing a true freshman in the SEC still has its drawbacks.

"We were really keying Andre Smith," Marks says. "He was real young so he was giving away light and heavy. We just read out keys. When we read light and heavy from Andre we passed it on down the line and Q was able to blow right past them."

Light, meaning Smith's fingers were barely touching the ground in a three-point stance for pass protection, and heavy, meaning his knuckles were in the ground to get leverage for run blocks.

"We had seen it on film all week that Andre and Capps gave away light/heavy in run and pass," says Groves, who went around Capps to cause a John Parker Wilson fumble, which gave Auburn a 7-3 lead, then around Tatum to cause another, which helped the Tigers gain a 14-3 advantage.

"Capps was sitting light all game," Groves adds. "I had seen him sitting light and I tried to relay it to my D-line. We did a great job of keying on who had the key.

Groves only had those two second-quarter sacks, but it changed the complexion of the game and Alabama's offensive strategy. The Crimson Tide had to move Caldwell to right tackle in pass situations, which put freshman Evan Cardwell in the middle. They also had to, at times, move the protection responsibilities to the left and keep Tim Castille in the backfield to take out Groves. That meant the Auburn defense had one less player to cover.

"Their coaching staff had to change the protection," Groves says. "They had to slide the line and bring a back to try cut me. They spread it out and they tried to account for wherever I was and to keep a tight end sometimes."


Groves first sack on Wilson.

The only play from scrimmage for Alabama between Groves' forced fumbles was a big play from Marks, who forced the Tide into another pass situation. Alabama tried to run a reverse, but tailback Kenneth Darby never even had the chance to give the ball to D.J. Hall because Marks was dragging him down for a six-yard loss.

"I saw it the whole way," Marks explains. "I saw my guard sitting light and the tackle sitting heavy and he's looking at me. So I already knew (the guard) was pulling. It was a play like that. The O-line, they don't always give it away, but the offensive guard can't be heavy when he's going to pull. I just read my keys and it took me right to the play."

With Groves being so effective, his backup Antonio Coleman didn't play as much in the game as normal. However, he was able to take advantage of his limited time in the game. After Auburn took a 22-15 advantage in the third quarter, Coleman made on of the better hits in the game coming inside on a stunt to stick Darby for a three-yard loss.

"Me and Antonio watched film together and we talked about some things on the sidelines and coming in that would we could beat some of those guys on, and we did," Groves says.

Groves was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the 22-15 victory over the Tide, but Marks was surely in contention for the award. He had five solos, one for a loss, recovered Groves' second caused fumble then recovered another fumble in the fourth quarter on Will Herring's rip of Keith Brown. Marks also broke up an important pass when the Tigers were backed up deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter.

During and after the game the Bama frustrations of being physically beaten again rang clear with a cheap shot by linebacker Terrence Jones, profane cheers about Auburn as well as throwing objects at Auburn players. Prechae Rodriguez had numerous objects thrown at him after scoring right in front of the Alabama student section in the third quarter. Auburn cornerback David Irons was also hit in the eye coming off the field by a mostly full 20-ounce Aquafina bottle.

"That just shows no class to throw a bottle and hit one of our players," Groves says. "It just shows no class and speaks volumes of their fans. For them to do something like that doesn't sit right with me or the Auburn family. If you lose just take a loss like a man. If ya'll would have beat us we wouldn't have thrown a bottle at your players. We wouldn't have done anything like that because we have class. To do what they did is disrespect to the Alabama program, if not the whole school in general."


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories