AUBURN – Craig Stevens arrived at Auburn from Tallahassee with little understanding of what the Iron Bowl was all about. But it didn’t take him long to learn.
Senior Auburn linebacker Craig Stevens
“One snap,” Stevens said. “That’s all it takes.”
Stevens, a fifth-year senior outside linebacker, knows well what it’s all about now. He’ll play in his last Iron Bowl on Friday when No. 2 Auburn (11-0, 7-0) tries to keep its drive for the national championship alive against No. 11 Alabama (9-2, 5-2) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Kickoff time is set for 1:30 p.m. on CBS.
“It’s just a hard-nosed game,” Stevens said. “It’s one of those games where you can throw out all the records. It’s basically a game of pride for each school. Each team will come out playing hard and fight to the finish.”
Stevens was redshirted and not on the trip when Auburn beat Alabama 22-15 at Bryant-Denny in 2006. He was part of a 17-10 Auburn victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2007, but he hasn’t been on the winning side since. The Tigers were humbled 36-0 at Bryant-Denny in 2008 and couldn’t hang on to a late lead and fell 26-21 last season.
Players making their first trip to Tuscaloosa will learn it’s different, Stevens says, long before the first snap.
“It’s hectic,” he said. “You have the fans screaming at you and cussing at you coming out of the tunnel, trying to do anything to get in your head. Some of them even throw things at you. You just have to try not to let it get to you and try to stay focused on the game.
“Just because it’s the in-state rivalry and big rivalry, it’s pretty tough going in there just like I’m sure it’s pretty tough for them coming here.”
Auburn’s defense slammed the door on Alabama’s vaunted running game last season, holding eventual Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to 30 yards on 16 carries and Alabama as a team to 90 yards on 35 carries. The Tigers, Stevens said, will need more of that Friday against Ingram and Trent Richardson.
“I just remember as a defense all of us were flying to the ball,” Stevens said. “That’s what it comes down to. You have to get a lot of hats to the ball to bring those guys down.”
If the Tigers can break Alabama’s 20-game home winning streak, they’ll go on to play South Carolina for the Southeastern Conference championship and an opportunity to play in the BCS Championship Game. But the only that will matter Friday, Stevens says, is the task at hand.
“Once you step out on that field, it’s you versus them,” Stevens said. “Either you bring it or they are going to bring it to you.”