This week marks one of the most anticipated days of the year in the state of Alabama– and no, it's not Thanksgiving, it's the Iron Bowl.
Auburn takes on Alabama this Saturday in Tuscaloosa: an environment that has stung the Tigers for the past decade. They haven't gone to Bryant-Denny Stadium and escaped victorious since 2010. But to everyone on the Auburn sideline, this game means so much more. This historic rivalry is set up as a dog fight, and a chance for revenge.
Alabama native and redshirt freshman quarterback Robbie Ashford is set to start in his first Iron Bowl after transferring to Auburn in the winter. The meaning of this clash with the Tide runs deeper for him than most. He lives in a house divided, and his brother-in-law is a former Crimson Tide football player. But he's always known Auburn was special, and he has a golden opportunity to prove it on Saturday.
"We're going into a dog fight...We're going to war for one another,” Ashford said.
Fans of any rivalry game know that teams throw out their record in games like these. However, when you look at this game from a statistic standpoint, it gives Auburn little to no chance. But being undervalued is something that the players think may give them the edge this weekend. The team, players and coaches did not seem to view playing loose as a bad thing.
“Our guys are having fun playing this game,” said interim head coach Carnell Williams. "This game is about striking, it's about playing together and it's about having fun. These kids are having fun and they're playing together. That's the big thing. Look, there’s no magical words – there's no magical speech that I can give or these coaches. It's the Iron Bowl."
Anyone who has attended a home game under Williams this season knows that the team's energy isn’t an aspect that has hurt the Tigers. Instead, it’s made the team stronger and more cohesive. The past two wins have put Auburn in a position to make a bowl game at 5-6. This was something fans never thought would happen this year.
“We just go out and put our best foot forward and go out and put ourselves in this position to try to win this football game, being in a dog fight for 60 minutes. That’s what it takes,” said senior team captain Derick Hall.
Auburn’s season could be turned around with this one last win. The players feel that. The Tigers know the importance of fighting to the end and are ready to show that on the field.
Auburn hasn't forgotten Bryce Young's 4OT pass to John Metchie to pull off a miraculous comeback in Auburn, but it is ready to put that in the past on Saturday.
“Yeah, so we’re definitely feeling amped up. We know that our back is against the wall, which historically is when Auburn performs best,” said junior defensive lineman Colby Wooden.
With all this said, the tone of the Auburn players and coaching staff is something hard to convey through words. They spoke with intention and displayed confidence in each other. They spoke with the mindset that this was war. They stood tall, shoulders back as if they were about to go into battle.
Most of all, the Tigers echoed their love and appreciation for the Plains. They are prepared to defend it for the most intense 60 minutes of the year.
"We're either gonna let this be what we are and our legacy at Auburn is gonna be horse crap or we're gonna get up and fight," said co-offensive coordinator Will Friend. "I think everybody kind of decided to fight a little bit and we got one more week to fight. Sometimes you play a little bit more physical and do things a little bit better when you decide to fight."
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