Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 19 Auburn 9, Alabama 0
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama had already lost its coach and more games than anybody expected. No. 19 Auburn happily added to the Crimson Tide's misery Saturday.
The Tigers rode Damon Duval's three field goals and a relentless running game to a 9-0 victory on a cold, rainy day to secure a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
It was only last season that Alabama (3-8, 3-5 SEC) secured the West title with a win in Auburn and went on to beat Florida for the league title. That was followed by the program's worst season since going 0-10 in 1955, and only its third losing campaign since 1957.
It was a tough farewell for ousted coach Mike DuBose and for his players.
"It's a hurt, sick feeling right now," Tide receiver Antonio Carter said. "I can't really explain it."
It was the opposite feeling in the opposing locker room, where the Tigers (9-2, 6-2) capped an impressive turnaround after two losing seasons.
The win, coupled with Mississippi State's loss to Arkansas, gave Auburn its second division title.
"The SEC championship should come down to Alabama-Auburn," defensive back Rodney Crayton said. "That's the way it should be. We're going to enjoy this win.
So will their coach.
"Doing what this team has done, week in and week out, has been amazing," Tommy Tuberville said.
It was Auburn's first visit to Tuscaloosa since 1901, and the first time neither team scored a touchdown since Alabama's 3-0 win in 1960. The Tigers have outscored the Tide 74-0 in three visits to Tuscaloosa, including wins in 1895 (48-0) and 1901 (17-0).
It was Alabama's second losing season of DuBose's rocky four-year tenure. Only this one began with the sky-high expectations of a No. 3 national ranking.
"I'm not proud of the record, but I'm proud of the way that they handled the adversities over a period of time," DuBose said. "I'm going to miss them."
Duval kicked field goals of 22 and 42 yards in the first half, then sealed the win with a 27-yarder with 9:20 left in the fourth. Johnson rushed 37 times for 130 yards in his 10th 100-yard effort of the season. Fullback Heath Evans added five carries for 55 yards.
"What a super effort the last few weeks from Damon Duval," Tuberville said. "What an incredible player he is.
"It's been a fun day and it's been a fun year. I told the team, they just earned themselves into another game."
The Tide were shut out for the second time this season, unable to get anything accomplished in the running or passing game. They were outgained 301-135 and had the ball for 16-plus minutes less than Auburn. The Tide were limited to 23 yards on 22 rushes after managing just 31 yards against Mississippi State.
"They just lined up and whipped us at the point of attack," DuBose said. "Their defense lined up and beat our offense, especially at the line of scrimmage."
Auburn held onto the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the second half.
Auburn's Ben Leard threw interceptions on consecutive passes in the third quarter, but Alabama still managed just 13 yards in the quarter.
The Tide also couldn't turn a Johnson fumble late into points, with Neal Thomas missing a 48-yard field goal.
DuBose finished a rocky four-year tenure 24-23 at his alma mater. He presided over two of Alabama's three losing seasons since 1958, winning an SEC championship and surviving a sexual harassment scandal last year. He coached the final three games as a lame-duck.
DuBose admitted thoughts of his future might have intruded on his focus the past week.
"It's been a difficult week," he said. "At times it was hard to stay focused on the game thinking of what you're not going to be able to do ever again.
"It's a difficult way to end it because of what we wanted to see happen for this football team and the people that love and support this university."
|Tommy Tuberville has the Auburn Tigers in the SEC title game.|