AUBURN — Jerraud Powers can remember just one time in his life when he cheered for Alabama. He blames it, though, on his past obsession to always root for the underdog.
“When Cadillac ran the 80-yard touchdown, I started cheering for Bama,” said Powers, a Decatur High grad and one of Auburn’s starting cornerbacks. “I was just one of those guys going for the underdog.”
Carnell Williams’ 80-yard touchdown run against Alabama during the first play of the 2003 Iron Bowl gave Auburn fans a highlight they won’t forget soon. Williams, who completed his eligibility in 2004 and is playing for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, took a handoff inside and then cut to the outside, weaving through would-be tacklers.
He raced along the sideline, leaving Alabama defenders in his wake. Williams’ big run set up the Tigers’ 28-23 home victory.
For several Auburn players, it serves as the fondest memory of an Iron Bowl.
Just a true freshman, tackle King Dunlap stood on the Auburn sideline as Williams raced past him.
“That was the loudest I’ve ever heard Jordan-Hare, ever,” said Dunlap, now a senior.
“I’d never experienced that before.”
The same goes for linebacker Quentin Groves. Also a freshman, Groves, who is from Mississippi, was experiencing his first Iron Bowl on that November day in 2003.
“It was amazing, man,” he said, “and I think the first play on offense, Carnell broke it for like 80 yards.”
Groves’ 23-year-old memory is sharp.
A senior in high school at the time, center Jason Bosley was on a recruiting visit to Auburn during that weekend. Until that game, he never made much of the Iron Bowl.
“I remember my senior year coming here when Carnell broke that 80-yard run on the first play of the game,” he said. “From then on, I was like, ‘Man, this game is awesome.’ ”
Powers was a sophomore in high school when he and several others gathered at a friend’s house to watch the 2003 game — the last time he openly rooted for the Tide.
But he, apparently, was just taking part in a North Alabama tradition. Powers recalled his days as a student at Decatur High. According to him, he was surrounded by crimson and white.
“North Alabama is probably 85 to 90 percent Bama nation,” he said, laughing. “There’s probably a handful of Auburn guys over there.”
Bosley will play in his first Iron Bowl this year.
For the last two seasons, he served as a reserve lineman, a backup. He never saw playing time in the “biggest game of the year.”
“You’re remembered for what you do in this game,” he said. “If you have a good game in the Iron Bowl, you’ll be remembered forever.”
Like, say ... Carnell Williams?
Groves’ record lingers
With two games left in his senior season, Quentin Groves remains a sack shy of setting Auburn’s all-time career record.
Just eight quarters of football — the Auburn-Alabama game and a bowl trip — remain for the end-turned-linebacker to snatch his 27th career sack and break a tie with Gerald Robinson, who had 26 during 1982-85.
“I wish it wasn’t hanging over my head,” said Groves, from Greenville, Miss.
Groves ranks second on the team with three sacks this season. He pointed to several things that have bogged him down in a season in which so much was expected of him, but so little has been seen.
He dislocated three toes during Auburn’s win at Florida on Sept. 29, and still hasn’t recovered fully. Groves said that instead of running on the balls of his feet, he runs more from heel to toe.
“Day by day, it gets better,” he said, trying to find a silver lining.
Groves returned from the injury almost a month later, but instead of playing defensive end, he was shifted to linebacker.
Because of Auburn’s depth problems at linebacker and Groves’ backup — Antonio Coleman — impressing coaches, the senior was moved. But earlier this week, he wasn’t sure where he would play when Auburn plays its regular season finale — a Nov. 24 matchup with Alabama.
Groves said that every morning brings a trip to a different meeting room — linebackers or defensive ends. Whichever one “they tell me to go in is the one I go in,” he said.
Groves met mostly with the defensive ends during Auburn’s three days of practice this week.
“I try not to think about it,” Groves said.
“It’s probably going to hit me when the clock hits zero: Wow, it’s all over.”
Getting over Georgia
Center Jason Bosley played golf. Coleman turned his focus to Alabama. And Groves?
Well, he is waiting until Saturday to entirely get over the bitter, embarrassing 45-20 loss at Georgia.
“Once we get to college football this weekend, seeing a couple more teams lose, then we should get our spirits back,” said Groves, who plans to spend his Saturday off watching football.
Bosley didn’t wait too long to brush aside the lopsided loss to the Bulldogs. He and his brother went golfing during Auburn’s days off on Sunday and Monday.
“Kind of got my mind off it and refreshed myself,” the junior said.
When Coleman, always a carefree guy, walked off the field, he left the loss out there in the black hole that was Georgia’s Sanford Stadium.
“As soon as the whistle blew and everybody ran on the field, I just ran straight to the locker room thinking about Alabama,” said Coleman, who replaced Groves at defensive end midway through the season and has a team-leading seven sacks.
“No big deal to me.”
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