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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Late night practice notes: Iron Bowl a step up from your average college football rivalry

Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes is from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., so he’s long had an appreciation for the Miami-Florida State rivalry.

It’s nothing like the Iron Bowl, he said.

“Coach (Gene Chizik) said they separate a line in the elementary schools and it’s either you’re Auburn or Alabama,” Bynes said. “You’ve got to choose one or the other and it’s going to be hatred for the rest of your life when they play each other.”

It’s with that as the backdrop that the Tigers (11-0, 7-0 SEC) resumed preparation for the Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2) Sunday, going through a 90-minute full-padded practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn had a bye the week before the Iron Bowl last year, so it is following the same schedule. It has the added benefit of no classes because of Thanksgiving break.

“I think our guys know what to expect starting tonight,” Chizik said. “With them not having school tomorrow knowing how we want to organize it, the mentality of them being able to come over here in the morning and watch film on their own (is there).”

Things get dialed up a notch in the rivalry, which has been the teams’ regular season finale in all but one year since 1948.

“It’s downright nasty,” Bynes said. “The game is physical. And you’re playing for more than yourself. You’re playing for all the millions of people who love Auburn and the other millions who love Alabama. So whoever wins that game gets that 365-day bragging rights.”

It doesn’t take long for out-of-state players like left guard Mike Berry, who is from Antioch, Tenn., to realize the gravity of the game.

“You inherit this rivalry and the hate for the other team,” the senior said. “Grown men cry over this game. It’s amazing.”

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And read some more notes and quotes from a light night of interviews Sunday:
  • Auburn is a 4-point underdog in the game, despite being ranked No. 2 and being 11-0. "Even though we've had a winning record this year, people still expect us to lose," Berry said. "We still carry that as a chip on our shoulder."
  • One more Bynes quote on the rivalry: "Your whole body changes. Everything. Your emotions, when you get into this game, because you know for a fact that everybody is watching. From the NFL to high school to Little League to the family, friends. People who don't watch football, they'll watch this game, because this is the most important game."
  • Last year's game wasn't decided until the final minute, after Alabama drove the length of the field and pulled out a 26-21 win on Greg McElroy's touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch. "That don't really stick to me at all," Bynes said. "We just know that last drive, we had some mistakes of our own in coverage, and that cost us them getting all the way down the field to get that game-winning points. But this year we have a whole different scheme. Some of us looked at the game from last year and seen some good things and seen some bad things, but I'm really more focused on what we need to do this year to stop them. I think we're a better defense than last year, especially up front."
  • The Tigers expect things to be loud at recently expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium, the fifth-largest stadium in the country now that it seats 101,821. They’re preparing as such. Auburn has occasionally practiced in the John H. Watson Fieldhouse, cranking up the music to high decibels. The coaches choose the tunes. “Sometimes it’s good,” wide receiver Darvin Adams said. “But sometimes it’s just a whole bunch of noise and you don’t understand what it is.”
  • Auburn’s players don’t find such noise too disruptive when coaches relay in plays. Everything is based on hand signals. As for the snap count, the Tigers have plenty of options. “You just make adjustments,” Berry said. “If we can’t hear, maybe we’ll go maybe with (center Ryan) Pugh saying the snap count. It hasn’t been a big issue for us year. I don’t really expect it to be.”
  • Chizik said practice focused on Auburn more than Alabama. "Now it’s about us," he said. "It’s about us executing things. It’s about us executing the same plays, executing better. The practice time where we’ve been able to look back at some things we haven’t been as successful on as we would like and some things we have been good at. But for the most part, really just working on us.”
  • Chizik's take on Alabama this year compared to last year: "I don’t think they’re very different at all. I think they’re very physical on both sides of the ball. You can tell that’s what they hang their hat on, having a very physical run game. They’ve got some great people on the perimeter who can catch the football. Defensively, very physical in the front seven. Great athletes on the perimeter. I don’t see a lot of difference. It’s obviously a very well-coached team and a very physical football. There’s just not a lot of difference from what I see.”
  • Adams said fellow wide receiver Terrell Zachery is "the best receiver in the nation" when he has the ball in open space. "When you get him one-on-one with somebody, 10 times out of 10 he’s going to win that battle," Adams said. "Good moves. Hard to bring down. If he turns the corner and get his shoulder squared, it’s going to be a tough time getting him down."
  • When did Auburn players think this season might be not just good, but something special? "I mean, we all thought we could go all the way, but we started clicking as a team after the Arkansas game," Adams said. "The defense refusing to lose and the offense refusing to lose."
  • A few players admitted to sneaking thoughts about the national title game. "Yeah, it’s hard not to think about, in the back of your mind you’re probably thinking about it," Zachery said. "But you’ve got to keep pushing. Just keep pushing like coach Chiz says one game at a time."
  • Berry knows the problems with looking ahead. "If you look too far ahead," he said, "then you get beat and then you're out of it."


Clint Richardson said...

AB, as a Badger, and an outsider, not that that's a bad thing, how to view this rivalry?

Andy Bitter said...

It'd be better if they played for an axe or a bronzed pig or something.

Clint Richardson said...

Yea, we don't have a storied trophy. But it is kinda funny that the trophy is named after an Auburn AD and an Alabama frat house, if I remember correctly. I don't really think the south rivalry games like FSU-UF and so on play for a trophy. That's a Yankee thing. MSU-Ole Miss play for the Egg Bowl, and LSU-Ark play for the Golden Boot. That's all I know.

Tar Heel Tiger said...

Yeah, I can just see the fans in the AU vs ua-t rivalry getting ahold of an AXE and using it with reckless abandon.

Maybe we should just play for a dozen Krispy Kremes.

RG4ORDR said...

THT, those are some big boys out there, better make it 20 dozen..heh heh heh

War Eagle AC-47 said...

Being a 4 point underdog is almost a wash. They give Bama 3 points just for playing at home.

Anonymous said...

I love the way Josh Bynes so freely and fluently mangles the english language. It's beautiful. I hope he ends up moving on to the next level somewhere, he seems like a good guy and I think he's been a pretty solid player for us.

As for the Bama game, it's not going to be as close as last year. Bama's got a lot of issues (O-line, talented but susceptible secondary, weak pass rush without blitzing [and we know what happens when you blitz AU]) that playing at home aren't going to magically solve for them. More worried about Alshon Jeffrey and Lattimore again.

MikeP said...

About that 4 points for the home field: I guess those 'Vegas types don't pay any attention to history.

There is a reason we Auburn fans call the stadium in Tuscaloosa "Jordan-Hare West". Auburn owns the place, to the extent of a 6-1 record all time. Expect 7-1 to be in the books about dark Friday.

Late in the fourth quarter the place will be really loud. 10,000 cheering Auburn fans and 91,000 empty seats.

Chris P. said...

Well said, Mike P. War Eagle!