September 20, 2009

Tigers coming together

Gene Chizik faced an uphill battle when he was named Auburn's head coach last December. He had to rebuild the confidence and unity of a team that was clearly suffering after a 5-7 season.

Chizik had a plan from the start. It wasn't a sexy plan but through hard work and team building exercises the 2009 team was built from the ground up starting in winter workouts and continuing through a spring, summer and preseason of blood and sweat.

But what Chizik lacked, until this weekend, was a test, a way to show exactly how far they'd come and how much farther that had to go.

West Virginia provided that test in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night jumping out to a 14-0 first quarter lead. But the Tigers fought back to finally take the lead in the fourth quarter and come away with a 41-30 win.

Chizik is proud of the way his young Tigers responded.

"I did see that our football team, whatever the circumstances were against a really good team, will fight and claw and scratch until the end to win it. I couldn't be more proud of our guys right now," Chizik said.

For most of the last few seasons it's been Auburn's defense that's had to pick up the slack for offensive shortcomings. But when AU's defense gave up 58-yard pass and a 71-yard run in the first five minutes of the WVU game, it was the offensive players that showed their support.

"We all rally together," receiver Darvin Adams said. "Even when we were down, offensive players were over telling the defense that it's OK, that we're going to score.

"Even when the offense wasn't clicking and the defense was getting stops, they were telling us they'd get the ball back."

The defense rallied to force six turnovers including four interceptions in a decisive fourth quarter. The lessons learned from the comeback win could reverberate throughout the season.

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