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November 24, 2012

Auburn left looking for answers

TUSCALOOSA | Just two years ago, Gene Chizik trotted off the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium amid the raucous celebration of wrapping up an undefeated regular season and the Southeastern Conference Western Division title.

Saturday afternoon, the once-celebrated Auburn football coach watched the second-ranked University of Alabama deliver a humbling 49-0 beating that left Chizik and the rest of the Auburn Nation trying to explain how the Tigers went from national champions in 2010 to 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC this season.

Even though Chizik refused to address speculation regarding his future at Auburn, he still endured a barrage of questions about Auburn's worst Iron Bowl loss since a 55-0 drubbing in 1948.

"Obviously that was a very disappointing and embarrassing loss to our in-state rivals," Chizik said. "It was a sad performance. The Auburn fans, the Auburn alumni, the people don't deserve what they got tonight. We did all the classic things you can't do in a football game to win it.

"We just got beat. Everybody saw how it happened. Very poor performance. (Alabama) just soundly beat us tonight. That's it."

For junior linebacker Jake Holland, who grew up in Pelham and dreamed of playing in this heated rivalry, the one-sided outcome hurt even more.

Holland and the rest of the Auburn defense surrendered 49 points, 25 first downs and 483 yards of total offense. Alabama scored a touchdown on its first seven possessions and didn't punt until the fourth quarter.

"Words can't really explain how tough it is," Holland said. "Growing up with this rivalry, you always dream of playing in it. When you get to play in it, you want to win, and when that doesn't happen it's tough.

"We had a good game plan going in, but players have to do their job. You have to keep going. The scoreboard didn't go the way we wanted it to, but you have to keep going and have pride in yourself and your team and the AU that you wear."

Running back Tre Mason provided the lone bright spot for Auburn, as he rushed for 82 yards to surpass 1,000 yards for the season.

But even with the personal milestone, Mason expressed his emotions about his team's lackluster performance and seasonlong misery.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "We dug ourselves a hole and we've got to live in it.

"We're going to try and go back next year and just put the pieces of the puzzle together.

"I don't think there was any quit on our team at all. (Alabama) was a well-coached team and they're really good. We lost to a really good team."

Alabama jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead before it erupted for four touchdowns in the second quarter and a commanding 42-0 halftime advantage.

The Tide scored its final touchdown early in the third quarter before emptying its bench in the second half.

"Y'all saw what you saw out there tonight," Chizik said. "Again, I'm just very disappointed for our fans. We've been in tough times before and we've got to come back and continue to work to try and fix everything that spiraled downward.

"Of course, I'm the head football coach at Auburn and there's no question in my mind that I believe we can get this thing turned around and get back on the right track."

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