Dallas, Tex.--Coming into the 2006 season Auburn's first year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp talked about the need for more big plays from his unit. Already down 7-0 and in danger of going down by two scores with Nebraska driving, senior linebacker Karibi Dede picked off a Zac Taylor pass and completely changed Auburn's day on the way to a 17-14 victory in Monday's Cotton Bowl.
"I think that was the momentum turner," Dede says. "Obviously there were more Nebraska fans but that sparked our fans and got our offense going. They punched it in and after that I feel like the defense came out and held strong."
Dede returns an interception inside the Nebraska 10-yard line that sets up Auburn's first score.
Dede's play was exactly the kind of play the Tigers were looking for exactly one year ago against Wisconsin but on that day the Badgers had an answer for every thing Auburn threw at them. Dede says despite the slow start defensively he never got the feeling that the Tigers weren't going to get the job done on defense.
"It was very different," Dede says. "Last year it was almost as if you had a basket full of something and there were holes in the basket so you were spilling out everything. That's how last year felt. This year we were giving up plays but they weren't things that were major that we were really worried about. We knew if we made a couple of adjustments that we would come out in the second half and there would be no where for them to go.
"Last year was so tough," he adds. "The senior class had a bunch of great guys and to send them out on the losing note was so tough. I took it hard on myself and the team took it hard. This year we weren't going to let that happen. It was a tight game and I have to give a lot of credit to Nebraska. They played a great game and I wish all those guys the best of luck. To our guys returning next year I hope they have a high ranking and a schedule that's favorable to them. I hope they go all the way."
Going all the way is something Dede and his fellow seniors have already accomplished in their careers at Auburn. Part of a perfect 13-0 season and a SEC Championship, Dede says that he'll always cherish his career at Auburn and he leaves proud of the fact that he's a part of the winningest class in Auburn history.
"It has been a long and great career," Dede says. "We walk away with 50 wins in five years. We won 41 in four years. We finish 11-2 and play in a great bowl in the Cotton Bowl. We had a chance to play in a BCS bowl in the Sugar. We've played in the Capital One. We've been to Tennessee to play in the Music City. I have just had a great career and a great run. I owe everything to God first and also to Auburn University because they gave me the opportunity to play this game that I love."
Dede and fellow senior linebacker Will Herring closed out their careers in style in the win over Nebraska with both of them possibly playing their best career games against the Cornhuskers. Muschamp says that the two seniors were the glue that held the Auburn defense together and he's proud they get to finish out their careers on top.
"I thanked them because it's tough on those kids being seniors and being through three coordinators and three different personalities," Muschamp says. "While you are taking over you say to yourself that kids are resilient and they'll be fine but you know as a coach it's alarming for them and it's tough. Those two guys have been outstanding for me as a coach to have mature guys that you can count on and provide leadership and provide instruction for the younger players. I can't thank those guys enough."