Ryan Black commentary: With Auburn, it's more than luck

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 5, 2013 

Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis was one of six Tigers to land a deal as an undrafted free agent. Davis signed with the San Diego Chargers.


AUBURN, Ala.Dee Ford called it.

Yes, somehow, someway, it seems Auburn's senior defensive end knew the team's run of good fortune was just beginning following its win over Georgia. The now-iconic 73-yard touchdown catch by Ricardo Louis? It was great and all. But with a week off between that victory and Auburn's matchup with top-ranked Alabama, the play had run its course as far as the highlight reels were concerned. Not that Ford was worried.

Just take a look at a comment he made last week, which looks astonishingly prescient given the events of the Iron Bowl.

"If we do what we're capable of doing, as far as finishing out, this will be a legendary team," he said. "I really believe that. Definitely ESPN '30 for 30.'"

Don't think ESPN's critically-acclaimed documentary series isn't cooking up some kind of project on this year's team. Heck, as many times as the network showed Chris Davis' unbelievable 100-yard touchdown this week, an entire hour could be spent delving into that play alone — and the madness that ensued once he crossed the goal line, too. Of course, any time a team wins in the fashion the Tigers have in their past two outings — or even how they've won earlier this season, 6-0 in games decided by eight points or less, with six come-from-behind victories, to boot — certain words start to crop up.




What do the players themselves think about these characterizations?

Corey Grant, for one, set the record straight in at least one respect: while Auburn did need a fortuitous bounce to go its way for the ball to land in Louis' hands, there was no divine intervention involved in Davis' return.

"Against Georgia, that was just a miracle. It was a great play," he said. "I kind of look at (the Alabama) game — that was more of a coaching decision to put Chris back there. … That was a great (piece) of coaching to put Chris back there in that situation."

Grant's take seemed reflect the way the rest of his teammates felt about it, too. Undoubtedly, Auburn has had a few things break right for it to be sitting at 11-1 and playing for the SEC championship this weekend. But every great team, every season, has to pull out a win or two based on nothing but circumstances aligning perfectly in their favor.

If anything, the Tigers are just trying to enjoy the ride.

"It's really like a dream for me, because I haven't had much success," senior fullback Jay Prosch said. "At Illinois, we were decent both the years I was there. We went to bowl games, which was fun, but nothing like we are now. Obviously last year we weren't very good. To play for a team be doing as good as we are now, it's awesome for me. I'm living it up."

Sure, Prosch said, the past two wins have been "crazy." For it to happen in consecutive contests has been utterly amazing.

Just don't call it luck.

"Sweat" would be a more apt description.

"We've definitely done the work to be able to be where we're at," Prosch said. "It's not luck."

And he's right.

A team doesn't "luck" into a double-digit win campaign. "Fate" doesn't help a team average more than 318.3 rushing yards per game. "Destiny?" Every team thinks it's bound for a national title in the spring and summer.

Then the season kicks off and the contenders are separated from the pretenders.

It's not hard to figure out which category Auburn resides in this season.

The last time the Tigers were in such a position, of course, was three years ago. That year, Auburn ran through its slate without a blemish, finishing 14-0 to capture its first national title since 1957. Even that season, though, the Tigers had to win their fair share of nail-biters.

At some point, you start focusing less on how things happen and more on the outcome itself.

"I was telling a couple of the younger players earlier, we won a lot of (close) games in 2010," said senior Ryan Smith, whose time was mostly spent on special teams that year. "Sometimes you win games like that."

At least in that regard, history is repeating itself.

As Ford astutely predicted, this team's "legendary" status is already set in stone, regardless of how it fares in its final two games. And who knows?

These next two games might provide even more memorable clips for that inevitable "30 for 30" film on this group of turnaround Tigers.

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