A September To Remember

On a night that started with Creedence Clearwater Revival repeatedly asking the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd whether it had ever seen the rain as more than two inches fell in what seemed like two minutes, Auburn won what might prove to be its most pivotal game of the season.

When the game clock hit zero and with the real clock almost at midnight, Auburn once and for all put away the demons lurking from last season. The Tiger's 41-30 win over West Virginia closed the book for good on the Tommy Tuberville era.

Today it's official: These are not your 2008 Auburn Tigers. They may have the same names on the back of their jerseys, but make no mistake, these are changed men. Last year's group would have folded like a cheap umbrella in the stadium wind after West Virginia's Noel Devine ran straight through Auburn's defense to go up 14-0 in the first quarter.

Not this team.  Not Gene Chizik's team.

"I am really, really proud of our football team," Chizik said. "We had to overcome probably more adversity than we did the first two weeks. It is a sign of a football team that is believing and coming together."

Believing indeed. Chizik and his staff have this group believing not only they can win, but more importantly that they should win. Scanning the Auburn bench midway through the first quarter, there was not one ounce of quit or doubt in the players' eyes.

What a difference a year makes and what a difference coaching can have on a team. A year ago, these same players blew double digit leads in four different games and never recovered. This year's edition has trailed in each contest and managed to win by 24, 25 and 11. Chizik says looking into his players eyes tells the story.

"What I always like to do is see their eyes," he said. "I want to see what they look like. I want to see what their body language looks like. I want to see who is ready to go and who doesn't have that far away look.

"I just told them with five minutes left in the game, I told the defense, 'you are going to have to go out there two more times minimum and stop them, and that is just the way it is.' I was proud to see they did it."

Is this a great Auburn team? Probably not. But it's proving to be pretty special. The Mountaineers exposed weaknesses that most Auburn fans already suspected. The Tiger defense is a work in progress. After giving up 509 yards of offense including a 71 yard touchdown run and a 58 yard pass, there's plenty for coordinator Ted Roof to lose sleep over this week.

At the same time, there are lots of positives and that's what has Auburn fans buzzing on this Monday. Not since the magical run of 2004 have the Auburn faithful been this excited. Who would have thought it back on December 13th? An unlikely love affair has sprung up between fans and the new head man.  Winning makes crazy things happen.

"I wish I had 87,000 game balls because our fans were a huge reason we won and I want them to know it," said Chizik. "We had thousands of students stay here through the whole thing. Everybody came early and nobody left because of the weather, and I promise you that was one of the big reasons we won the game."

As the game ended, ESPN cameras caught a quick shot of athletic director Jay Jacobs pumping his fist and giving a big smile. He's perhaps caught more heat than any athletic director in school history. Even his worst critics had to smile seeing that shot. He's yet to be vindicated, but his pick is off to one hell of a start.

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