AP photo by Todd Van Emst|
Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves has tied a school record with 26 career sacks.
Now recovered from dislocated toes, Auburn’s Groves back on the attack
By Ross Dellenger
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AUBURN — As Florida's center fell on his foot, Quentin Groves heard the piercing crack.
"I thought my foot was broke," the Auburn defensive end said. "I was just thanking God that my foot wasn't broke."
There was no broken foot, but there were three dislocated toes. Groves' toes bent upward pointing at his ankle until they popped. He had never felt pain like it before, as he rolled around in agony on Florida Field three weeks ago.
"I had a high ankle sprain my freshman year," the senior from Mississippi said, "but it was nothing like this."
For the first time in his career, Groves missed a game because of injury. He watched from the sideline in street clothes as Auburn beat Vanderbilt. He dressed out for the Tigers' win at Arkansas but never played because the toes cracked again in pregame warmups.
On LSU's third play from scrimmage Saturday night, Groves entered a game for the first time since getting hurt.
It didn’t take him long to get his 26th career sack, tying Gerald Robinson’s school record. On a crucial third down late in the second quarter, Groves twisted LSU quarterback Matt Flynn like he was a rag doll.
Flynn fell to the grass and Groves had finally tied the record.
“It felt great,” he said, “to finally tie the sack record.”
He never expected it would take this long. After opening the season with two sacks against Kansas State, Groves said he thought to himself, “I can set a benchmark record here.”
But five straight sackless games later, he suffered the injury.
“I kind of lost focus during that stretch where I didn’t have any sacks,” the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder said. “It took me getting injured to realize, OK, I needed to come back down to Earth a little bit.”
With four games remaining and probably a bowl game, Groves is just a sack shy of having his name at the top of Auburn’s career sacks list.
It couldn’t come at a better time as No. 23 Auburn (5-3, 3-2 SEC) faces Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5) on Saturday afternoon in front of what should be a packed Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Rebels are 11th in the conference in sacks allowed, giving up almost three a game.
Groves is looking at the last few games of his Auburn career with a different mind-set. He’s going to “let it all hang out,” he said.
“I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” he said. “If I get injured, I get injured. If I don’t, I don’t. Just let it all hang out.”
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said Groves will play more this weekend. He played 26 snaps against LSU, seeing the majority of his playing time on third downs.
“He rushed the passer well,” Muschamp said.
In addition to his third sack of the year, Groves had three tackles and a forced fumble.
But this year is a far cry from last season, when Groves played in every game and had six sacks at this point in the season. Also at this juncture last year, Auburn had just one conference loss and was still in the hunt for the SEC West championship.
Muschamp said Groves is handling the adversity well. He said he knows Groves expected more out of himself heading into his final season at Auburn.
Groves surely didn’t expect to get hurt and miss two games. He certainly did not foresee Auburn losing to his home-state school of Mississippi State, being 5-3 and needing help to get back into the SEC West race.
But he at least has a chance Saturday to vindicate that loss to Mississippi State with a win over Ole Miss — a school that’s just a couple of hours from Groves’ home in Greenville, Miss.
Groves had a sack and a half against Ole Miss last year. He said he’ll take a half a sack this time around.
“If I take a half,” he said with a smile, “I’ll still break the record.”
<>Auburn’s career sacks leaders
Quentin Groves tied Auburn’s career sacks record with one against LSU on Saturday. He has a chance to own the record by himself Saturday against Ole Miss.
Player Seasons Sacks Yards
1, Quentin Groves 2004-present 26 169
1, Gerald Robinson 1982-85 26 150
3, Tracy Rocker 1985-88 21 146
3, Craig Olgetree 1986-89 21 117
4, Reggie Torbor 2000-03 18.5 128
5, Leonardo Carson 1996-99 17 123
5, Willie Whitehead 1991-94 17 108
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