Originally created 11/24/03

Auburn celebrates, Alabama suffers



AUBURN, Ala. -- The Iron Bowl provided more frustration for Alabama and a much-needed reason to celebrate for Auburn.

The Tigers ended the regular season on a positive note with Saturday night's 28-23 victory, supplying yet another close defeat for the beleaguered Crimson Tide.

For Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby, it means happier holidays.

"Fans can go to work, eat good on Thanksgiving," he said. "They don't have to worry about any problems."

The victory over its archrival solved some problems for Auburn (7-5, 5-3 SEC), but it didn't necessarily resolve the coaching situation.

Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday he was "shocked" his job security even remained an issue. He said no Auburn representatives had discussed it with him, while some fans have clamored for his ouster.

After the game, he pointed out that he did win the game "we're supposed to win" for the third time in four years.

"We pour our heart and soul into this game, and I know we haven't played a great season and we've lost some games," Tuberville said. "We've played a tough schedule, and our guys have played hard every snap, every game, for four quarters, win or lose.

"I'm proud of every dang one of them for it."

The Tide (4-8, 2-6) once again had little to show for playing a favored team close, losing four of its last five games entering the season finale at Hawaii. Alabama has dropped four this season by seven points or less and two more after multiple overtimes.

"We've been close all year," cornerback Charlie Peprah said. "We hate that word now. I don't know what was going on. We came out and had the worst half, probably in America, the worst half we could have."

The Tigers led 18-2 at halftime, racking up 324 yards in an offense invigorated by Carnell Williams' running and Jason Campbell's passing.

Williams finished with 204 yards rushing, including an 80-yard touchdown on the game's opening play and a 1-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

Campbell passed for a career-high 270 yards, including a 64-yard TD pass to Ben Obomanu. The performance supplied some vindication for Tuberville, his offensive staff and his quarterback.

"I've been criticized, the coaches have been criticized," said Campbell, who was 18-of-27 but threw two interceptions in the end zone. "I think a lot of the criticism is unfair that we get. People don't really understand how many hours we go out and work, how we prepare ourselves for a game. They think we just go out on Saturday and just play and get beat.

"I just feel like we receive a lot of unfair criticism, but you don't worry about that."

Alabama will have to hear the criticism for at least another week. Brodie Croyle was just 13-of-29 passing for 180 yards with two interceptions and a late 14-yard touchdown pass to Lance Taylor off a deflection.

Shaud Williams rushed for 93 yards on 18 carries while backup tailback Ray Hudson caught four passes for 82 yards. Brandon Brooks' 96-yard kick return to open the second half brought the Tide back into the game.

"It seems like we've all been here before," Shula said. "Just an unbelievable effort by our players.

"It's been a difficult season for all of us. I'm tired of saying the word close. Our guys are tired of hearing it."