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This Time They're For Real
AUSTIN MURPHY
November 08, 2004
After failing to live up to their top billing last year, the revitalized Auburn Tigers have dominated the SEC this fall--and are clawing at the door of the BCS title game
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November 08, 2004

This Time They're For Real

After failing to live up to their top billing last year, the revitalized Auburn Tigers have dominated the SEC this fall--and are clawing at the door of the BCS title game

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I wish to express my profound disgust with the manner in which this board, President Walker and Mr. Housel have conducted themselves.--W.T.C., Class of '69.

If the people responsible for this fiasco remain, I will no longer support Auburn. --Brian, Class of 2000.

I will never forget the treachery of our current "leaders."--Joseph F., Class of '79.

While Tigers fans and local media vilified Walker, Tuberville kept to the high road. "I didn't take [the recruiting of Petrino] personally," he says. "I looked at it as a business decision they made." If so, it was a poor one. Walker resigned in January; Housel will step down after this season (though he says that decision has nothing to do with the Petrino affair).

Tuberville's calm and dignity laid the foundation for this season's success. It helped that the Tigers didn't open with Southern Cal, as they had in '03. Auburn lost that game to the eventual co--national champs 23-0. Hung over with disappointment, the Tigers were beaten the following week at Georgia Tech and went on to finish the year 8-5. This fall they opened with routs of Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State before hosting LSU, the other defending national champion. Less than seven minutes were left in that game when Auburn took over on its own 41, trailing 9-3. If the home fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium could have heard what Campbell said in the huddle--"We're going to win this game 10-9"--they would have been forgiven for thinking, Yeah, right.

A Parade All-America at Taylorsville (Miss.) High, Campbell was recruited by most of the top programs in the country. At 6'5", 225 pounds, he was tall, strong-armed and mobile. Before playing in a game at Auburn he was nicknamed the Future.

The Future was a bit slow in arriving. He started eight games as a freshman, throwing as many picks (four) as touchdowns. He tantalized with 11 TD passes as a sophomore but last season was often unable to find a rhythm. As recently as in this year's opener he was booed in his home stadium.

On fourth-and-12 on that final drive against LSU, Campbell called Knock Nine Comeback, a pass to wideout Courtney Taylor. LSU brought the house, forcing Campbell to roll out to the right. Just before he was drilled--and before Taylor had come out of his break-- Campbell threw to a spot 14 yards downfield. Taylor turned, found the ball, made the catch and moved the chains. Three plays later Campbell calmly waited until Taylor came open in the end zone, then fired a 16-yard strike through a welter of limbs. Final score: 10-9.

That game--indeed, that drive--propelled Campbell to a higher level. In Auburn's next SEC game, against Tennessee, he was again on fire against a ranked opponent. With skeptics doubting that the Tigers could beat a tough team on the road, Campbell completed 12 of 15 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of a 34-10 win. He was close to perfect in a 38-20 thumping of Arkansas: 17 completions in 19 attempts, 297 yards, three TDs, no picks.

Campbell takes mild exception to talk of his finally "arriving" this year. He feels he's played pretty well in each of his four seasons. His teammates see a quarterback who has taken the final step toward realizing his potential. "Jason's more relaxed this year," says Williams. "He's showing more leadership; he doesn't seem to get nervous. I think also he's benefited from the relationship with Coach Borges."

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