"AUBURN! We just beat the hell out of you!"
Bryant-Denny Stadium erupted as never before. Saturday night, for the first time ever, Alabama defeated Auburn in Tuscaloosa. The Tide didn't just beat the Tigers; they whipped them 36-0, assuaging a six-year losing streak to Auburn.
The screech of the elephant from the stadium's jumbo-tron mingled with the intense, passionate, near -hysterical roar of the crowd.
Auburn sophomore safety Mike McNeil could only walk away.
It had been a long game; it has been an even longer season.
For McNeil, there will be more games – more opportunities to right what went so wrong this season.
But Saturday night, there was frustration and sorrow mingled with regret. His disappointment was palpable.
"We just didn't execute on both sides of the ball and on special teams," he said. "They did, and they capitalized on our mistakes."
Alabama racked up 412 total offensive yards, netting 234 rushing and 178 passing. Auburn's offense sputtered, fumbled and made mistakes, leaning heavily on the defense to pull it out of jams.
In the end, Auburn's defense couldn't. It has tried to save Auburn all season. Saturday, it needed some help from the offense – but help never came.
"I never wanted to give up, and as a team we never give up," McNeil said. "We play hard until the game is over… But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating. But, we have to take responsibility for what we do."
McNeil said Alabama's offense was solid.
"They played real fundamental," he said. "Nothing real tricky or anything, they just line up and get it done. They executed well and capitalized on our mistakes." Now, Auburn has to learn from those mistakes.
The lesson learned this year should pay off next season, McNeil said. Every waking moment of the off-season will be motivated by this Iron Bowl loss, he said.
"We have to learn from our mistakes and come together as a team and work hard in the off-season," he said. "We need to get bigger, faster and stronger. We've got a lot of young players coming back and we've got to learn and get better."
After the game, McNeil said head coach Tommy Tuberville told the players that sometimes, seasons like this happen.
"He said we fought hard; we had a tough season," McNeil said. "Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce our way. And to the seniors, he congratulated them for the four or five years they've had."
For a long while Saturday night, the Alabama crowd cheered and the players rejoiced.
Eventually, the players and the fans departed. But for Auburn, the sound and the fury of this game will ring for a long, long while.
"This game will always linger in my mind," McNeil said. "I love the game, and one little mistake and I'll be thinking about it."
This game and this season will haunt him for years to come.
"It will most definitely be motivation, more like the feeling of losing," McNeil said. "We're used to winning and that's what we're going to do. Having a season like this humbles you. We were ranked very high before the season began and next season we will come back on top."