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November 18, 2006

Game Notes: Groves does his homework

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves always likes to find out if opposing offensive linemen are revealing any tendencies that might make his job easier.

He started licking his chops as soon as he started watching Alabama's game tapes.

Whenever Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson lined up under center, offensive tackle Chris Capps was slow coming out of his stance. Groves also noticed that Capps' hand was barely in the dirt whenever he lined up before a pass or draw play.

"When you're a pass rusher, you look for any little jump to beat your man," Groves said.

Groves' homework paid off Saturday afternoon.

The senior defensive end raced past Capps and knocked the ball out of Wilson's hands on back-to-back series in the second quarter. The big plays by Groves produced fumble recoveries that led to Auburn's first two touchdowns in a 22-15 victory over Alabama.

"The grace of God gave me those two sacks," said Groves, who finished the day with seven tackles. "I had a special feeling in my stomach that I didn't have all year."

Alabama owned a 3-0 lead and all the momentum before Groves went to work early in the second quarter.

Coming from the blind side, Groves knocked the ball loose from Wilson deep in Crimson Tide territory. Auburn linebacker Kevin Sears recovered the fumble to give the Tigers the ball on Alabama's 27-yard line.

Four plays later, Brad Lester raced around the right end to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead.

On Alabama's next series, Groves again beat Capps and stripped the ball from Wilson. Auburn defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks recovered it at Alabama's 8-yard line before Kenny Irons ran into the end zone on the next play.

Groves shouldn't get sole credit for the two big plays. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville noted that the Tigers' scheme changes may have confused Alabama during that second-quarter onslaught.

"I thought the whole key to the game in the second quarter was we just stayed with what we were doing and we played zone when we normally play man coverage," Tuberville said. "(Wilson) had to pull the ball down and hold it a little bit longer, and it caused the fumbles."

This wasn't the first time Groves has helped the Tigers bounce back from a loss.

One week after Auburn fell to Arkansas 27-10 in a game that cost the Tigers the Western Division title, the Tigers trailed Florida until Groves sparked a comeback.

Groves recorded three second-half sacks, forced a fumble and pressured Chris Leak into throwing a critical fourth-quarter interception as the Tigers rallied for a 27-17 victory.

He was even better Saturday, and made such an impact that Alabama had to shuffle its offensive line.

Kyle Tatum replaced Capps at right tackle after Groves' second sack. One series later, Alabama moved starting center Antoine Caldwell to right tackle before leaving Tatum at that spot the rest of the game.

IRONS SHINES IN IRON BOWL: Auburn cornerback David Irons was hit by a water bottle that was thrown from the stands after the game. After getting burned on a 52-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter, Irons redeemed himself late in the game.

He knocked down a fourth-down pass into the end zone to thwart Alabama's second-to-last series of the game. Irons then clinched the victory by intercepting a pass with 1:17 remaining.

"This is sweet," Irons said. "My last name is Irons, and we win the Iron Bowl."

After celebrating the victory, Irons was heading toward the locker room when a water bottle hit him near his eye. Irons said the bottle was full of water when it hit him.

Although Irons recovered well enough to speak with reporters afterward, his teammates expressed their anger about the incident.

"To throw a bottle and hit one of our players shows no class and speaks volumes for their fans," Groves said. "We just have to fight through it. For them to do something like that, it just doesn't sit right with me or the whole Auburn family. If you lose, just take the loss like a man. If y'all would have beat us, we wouldn't have thrown a bottle at your players because we have class."

PROTHRO'S RETURN: Injured Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro drew a standing ovation from the Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd when he came onto the field in uniform and delivered the game ball.

Although he had no intention of playing, Prothro's mere presence fired up the sellout crowd of 92,138 fans.

Prothro had collected 691 yards in his first five games last year and was on his way to an All-America type of season before breaking his left leg in a victory over Florida. Prothro has one year of eligibility remaining if his leg recovers in time for the 2007 season.

HALL SETS RECORD: Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall caught just one pass all day, but that 15-yard reception was enough to give him Alabama's single-season receiving record.

Hall has 57 catches for 1,014 yards this season. The previous record holder was David Palmer, who compiled 1,000 receiving yards in 1993.

WILSON'S RECORD DAY: Wilson broke a pair of school records in a losing cause.

The sophomore quarterback now has 2,539 passing yards to shatter the single-season mark of 2,499, set last year by Brodie Croyle.

Wilson's 13-yard completion to tight end Travis McCall in the third quarter was his 16th touchdown pass of the season, tying a school record. Current Alabama coach Mike Shula threw 16 touchdown passes in 1985, and Croyle matched the feat last year.

Wilson has 198 completions this year, which puts him seven away from the school record set by Gary Hollingsworth in 1989.

TAYLOR WATCHES: Auburn receiver Courtney Taylor, slowed by a pulled hamstring, started the game but was on the field for just one play.

Taylor faked a reverse as Kenny Irons ran inside for a 9-yard gain.

Taylor entered the game with 48 catches for 634 yards and two touchdowns.

RED MEANS STOP: Alabama's biggest problem this season has been its failure to score touchdowns in the red zone. That was an issue again in the first half.

A 27-yard scramble by John Parker Wilson and a 21-yard run by DJ Hall on the Tide's opening possession gave Alabama first-and-goal at the Auburn 3-yard line.

But three inside runs netted just two yards, and Alabama settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

That marked the 19th time in 47 ventures into the red zone this season Alabama settled for a field goal.

However, the Tide made amends on its first possession of the second half and recorded its 17th touchdown in the red zone on Wilson's 13-yard pass to Travis McCall.

ETC.: Auburn now owns a perfect 6-0 record against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Alabama still leads the all-time series 38-32-1. ... Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville improved his all-time record against Alabama to 6-6. Tuberville was 0-4 against Alabama while coaching Ole Miss, but he has gone 6-2 against the Tide since taking over Auburn's program. ... Alabama lost the game despite outgaining Auburn 364-261. ... Auburn linebacker Will Herring made his 48th consecutive start to break former offensive lineman Jeno James' school record for consecutive starts. ... Auburn's senior class now has 40 wins in its last four years, setting a school record for wins over a four-year period. . Auburn's Tristan Davis has set a school record with 713 yards in kickoff returns this season. James Brooks gained 654 yards in kickoff returns in 1977.

For more coverage of Arkansas, visit AuburnSports.com; for more on Alabama, visit BamaOnLine.com.

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