The Iron Bowl is always tough on everyone associated on both sides, particularly the players, but it's even tougher when the game goes down to the wire. Junior wide receiver Mario Fannin has seen the ups and downs of three Iron Bowls and he said it's tough to take, but he can take solace in the fact that the team laid it on the line.
"It's pretty hard," Fannin said. "Anytime you lose like that it's hard to take. We could see that our fans were in it and we were in it. We can't ask for anything more than that. It's just a matter of they had one more play that worked for them. Sometimes it happens like that.
"We knew we couldn't let our fans down and we couldn't let each other down," Fannin said. "It's bigger than just us as a team. It's our history here and tradition. I think we did well. We played hard for four quarters. That's what we have to do to win games. We just came up a little short."
Outgaining Alabama and never trailing in the game until Alabama scored with under two minutes left, Auburn showed it's capable of playing with anyone in the country on a given day. Fannin said games like the Alabama contest are just the tip of the iceberg of what the program is capable of and he believes the players are determined to show that very thing.
"They are a great team," Fannin said. "I'm not going to take anything away from them. We're a great team also. Our record doesn't show it as well as we've played, but we're a team with a lot left to accomplish in the future. We'll be able to show that come the bowl game and next season."
While there is still precious little depth on either side of the ball for the Tigers and plenty of room for newcomers to come in and play immediately, there is also cause for hope for Auburn next season. Defensively, Auburn will lose just three seniors while the offense should be strong even while replacing starting quarterback Chris Todd and running back Ben Tate among four senior starters.
The good news is that a solid group of receivers will be back led by Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery with Fannin jumping in there as well as playing some running back. Fannin said for him the thoughts of the future can't help but get him excited about the direction of the program under first-year coach Gene Chizik.
"I can say it's going to be amazing," Fannin said. "I just can't wait until it comes. I feel as though we'll be a team to be reckoned with come next season. We have a lot of things to accomplish and a lot of goals set right now. I think we'll do well."
Before that happens the Tigers will have one final chance to improve the 2009 season in a bowl game. With six SEC teams at 7-5 the bowl scenario is totally up in the air at the moment with the expected destinations expected to be known this coming weekend following the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
Fannin said the disappointments the team has suffered this season have only served to make them hungrier to finish on a good note. He said even though the season will be a success no matter what happens in a month, they could make it even bigger and better with one more win.
"I feel like we did okay," Fannin said of the season. "We could have done a lot better. At the same time I'm not going to take anything away from our team. We did great. We played hard. We have another game left and we're just going to play hard in that one to finish the season strong, not just for us but for our seniors."