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Birmingham Bowl will ‘make or break’ Auburn’s season

Michael Niziolek


Auburn captain Jonathan Wallace shares in the disappointment with the team’s vocal fanbase over the team’s 6-6 record.

The Phenix City native was one of the starting quarterbacks the last time the Tigers finished the season with a losing record as a true freshman in 2012. He hates the idea of bookending his career with a similar disappointing finish.

“It’s going to make or break our season,” Wallace said. “With a win we go out, not only winning our first bowl game, but we go out with a winning season. It’s what we want and that’s what Coach has been preaching to us all week is that we need this win and it’s going to be a good one for us.”

Wallace is part of a group of seniors including Jonathan Jones, Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray and Cassanova McKinzy that are 0-2 in bowl games.

Last year, Auburn lost 34-31 in overtime of the Outback Bowl to Wisconsin. In Gus Malzahn’s first season the Tigers lost in the National Title game by the same final score to Florida State.

The Birmingham Bowl doesn’t carry the same prestige as Auburn’s previous postseason appearances, but that doesn’t matter for a group of seniors hoping to give the Tigers some momentum going into the offseason.

“I would just say the season didn’t go the way we wanted it to go but as of right now all we can control is this last game,” Wallace said. “What we’re going to do is everything we can to win this last one.”

Auburn returned to the practice field Monday a focused group to start preparing for its Dec. 30 matchup against Memphis at Legion Field.

Wallace credited the Tigers’ upperclassman on defense for providing stability in the wake defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s departure. 

“The older guys have really taken on the leadership making sure guys are doing what they are supposed to do,” Wallace said. “They are fired up and ready to come to practice every day.”

The attitude is rubbing off on the team’s younger offensive and defensive players.

“It was just a couple weeks ago that we were even sure if we were going to make a bowl game,” running back Peyton Barber said.

Barber has a chance at an individual milestone as he enters the game 24 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards, but he's more concerned about how the offense performs as a whole.

“I've been looking for it for the last couple of games and I haven't gotten it, but at the same time it's all about winning,” Barber said.  “As long as we win, that's all that matters.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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