November 9, 2013

Run to glory

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | The toughness never fades.

That's the one trend that stands above all others when it comes to this Auburn team, which once again Saturday demoralized a Southeastern Conference program that assumed it had a chance. The Tigers remained completely faithful to their devastating ground game, an oddly designed first drive aside, and simply overpowered a slow and weak Tennessee defense time and again.

This is the new Auburn. It plays old-school football.

"We're tough. That's what people need to understand about us," star safety Robenson Therezie said. "We'll come at you for four quarters. Sometimes it takes a minute to get going, but we'll never slow down and we'll never back off."

That really was the theme in Knoxville.

Auburn came into the game 8-1, but there still were doubters. The most notable was statistical analyst Jerry Palm, who just days ago projected that the Tigers would play in the Music City Bowl.

Who plays in Nashville? The SEC's seventh pick.

Gus Malzahn's team now is 9-1 with only two home wins separating Auburn from a berth in the SEC championship game. Can it happen? The idea seems perhaps a bit strange to those who don't observe Auburn every week, but the Tigers have turned themselves into a championship-caliber team.

The doubters no longer have much ammunition.

These road games were supposed to be a challenge. Auburn stumbled badly during the first half in Baton Rouge, this team's maiden road voyage, and that loss gave the Tigers the look of a young team that plays well at home and stumbles on the road.

Then Texas A&M happened.

Now Auburn has pieced consecutive road wins against a pair of bottom-half conference teams. The fact that the Tigers, now a Top-10 program, managed to win the games isn't a major development.

The method is.

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