Marshall: Tigers Still Have Work To Do

The 20-17 victory over Florida is a game that Auburn fans will long remember, but the Tigers still have a lot of work to do to make 2007 a season to remember.

It was the kind of victory that will always be with those who were part of it. As long as they live, Auburn football players who were there will remember Sept. 29, 2007, and a 20-17 victory over No. 4 Florida at the Swamp.

Considering the way the season started, with two upset losses in the first three games, it was one of the bigger wins in Tommy Tuberville's nine seasons as Auburn head coach. He said he'd rank it in his top five. The Tigers, three-touchdown underdogs, won the game, Tuberville said Sunday morning, "on sheer guts."

Making it all the more remarkable was the fact that seven true freshmen not only played, but played when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter and played well in a very hostile environment. You would have to have been there to understand just how loud it was inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

There is hope again in a season that was on the verge of coming unraveled. But there are no guarantees. This Auburn team, still beset by injuries to key players, has a game to remember. There is still much to be done if this is going to be a season to remember.

The Tigers showed they are good enough to win a big-time game. But they aren't good enough to be immune from being upset yet again. They lost to South Florida and Mississippi State because they had five turnovers in each game. If they do that again, chances are they'll lose again.

The road ahead is treacherous, starting with Saturday's game against Vanderbilt at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be followed by back-to-back road trips to Arkansas and LSU, home games against Tennessee Tech and Ole Miss, a trip to Georgia and a home game against Alabama.

Injuries remain a serious problem. Tristan Davis is on the shelf again. Quentin Groves will probably miss a couple of games. A lot of players are playing with injuries that might limit their effectiveness. There won't be an open date until the week before the Iron Bowl in November.

On the other hand, tailback Brad Lester will be back for Vanderbilt. Quarterback Brandon Cox has found his game again. The defense, despite losing key players seemingly every week, has played well enough to win every game. And, at least for now, the swagger is back for a team that has grown accustomed to winning.

Saturday's game against Vanderbilt is dangerous. The Commodores aren't great, but they're pretty good. They'll hit town believing they have an opportunity to make a major statement on the road. And if Auburn isn't at the top of its game, they might just be able to do it.

For whatever reason, the Tigers have struggled in home games with early starts. They would be well-advised to be ready for a four-quarter game. Last Saturday's victory won't mean much if they turn around and lose to Vanderbilt.

Receiver Earl Bennett returns to his home state to play the Tigers.

Moving on...

It happens every season. In September, the talking heads that have a great impact on perception in college football identify a team or teams as all but unbeatable. One by one, they prove they are beatable. This season, a lot of them proved it in one weekend.

One of the great things about college football is that every week is different. Auburn can lose to South Florida and Mississippi State, then beat Florida in the Swamp. Colorado can stumble through four games, then rise up and beat Oklahoma.

That's what makes it fun...

It came as a shock to a lot of people that Auburn's defense was able to contain Florida's offense. It didn't come as a shock to Auburn's players and coaches. The truth is, if they were surprised by anything, it was that the Gators scored as much as they did. Had Ben Tate not fumbled at the end of a 19-yard run with Auburn leading 17-3 in the third quarter, that game might not even have been close in the end.

But nobody at Auburn is complaining. There's nothing quite as much fun as winning on the last play of the game...

If Florida doesn't find a way to play physical football, it has more losing to do before the end of this season. All but three of Florida's running plays were either by quarterback Tim Tebow or by wide receivers. Three runs by the tailback? I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. Coach Urban Meyer said it was because he never thought his offensive line could block Auburn's defensive line...

Five weeks into the season, just two SEC teams remain unbeaten. It's no surprise that one of them is LSU. Who would have thought Kentucky would be the other? At this point, I'd say Rich Brooks is the runaway choice as SEC Coach of the Year...

Until next time...

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