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Williams rushes for 204 yards

11/23/2003

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Carnell Williams finally got his chance to
shine in the Iron Bowl, Tommy Tuberville made a statement for
keeping his job and Auburn gained some redemption.

Williams opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown run and
finished with 204 yards in the Tigers' 28-23 victory over Alabama
on Saturday night.

Williams entered the game with only five carries in the last two
Iron Bowl games because of injuries, but gave Auburn (7-5, 5-3
Southeastern Conference) a lift that might have saved Tuberville's
job.

"This is the game we're supposed to win," a defiant Tuberville
said amid cheers from fans allowed into the postgame news
conference. "We went out there and won it. I'm going to go home
and sleep real good tonight, I promise you."

The Tigers blew most of an 18-2 halftime lead against the
Crimson Tide (4-8, 2-6) before holding on in a game between two
teams equally desperate for a win.

The Iron Bowl matchup held little of its usual allure outside
the state, with the teams entering with a combined 12 losses for
the first time in series history and some fans calling for
Tuberville's job.

The coach promised earlier in the week he would be back next
season. Asked if he was willing to reiterate that statement,
Tuberville said, "That ain't my decision. Any other questions?"

The game provided plenty of drama beyond his future. The
highlights included Williams' 80-yarder on the first play from
scrimmage and a 96-yard kick return by Alabama's Brandon Brooks to
start the second half.

Williams had to score the decisive touchdown twice. He juked a
defender and darted 27 yards into the end zone but a receiver was
called for holding at the 5. Three plays later, he leaped over the
goal line from the 1 with 7:27 left to make it 28-16.

"This is the big day here," said Williams, who had only two
carries in the first half of last week's loss at Georgia. "This is
the day everybody waits for, one of the best rivalries in the
country.

"It does take away a lot of the hurt we've been through this
season."

The Tide added Brodie Croyle's 14-yard touchdown pass to Lance
Taylor, who bobbled and caught a ball in the end zone that had
deflected off Triandos Luke with 1:03 left.

Alabama didn't get another chance, recovering the onside kick
before it traveled the required 10 yards.

"It has been a difficult season," said first-year coach Mike
Shula, whose team has lost four of five. "I am tired of saying the
word 'close' and the guys are tired of hearing it."

The Tide, which had only crossed midfield once before its final
drive, stayed alive with four huge plays by Croyle.

He had a 22-yarder to Ray Hudson on fourth-and-7, a 26-yarder to
Dre Fulgham on second-and-18 and a 26-yarder to Hudson on
third-and-21. The score came on third-and-goal.

Brooks' return ignited a Tide team that was bullied in the first
half on both sides of the ball.

The 5-foot-4 Brooks, who had only one kick return this season
entering the game, twice juked defenders and won the race to the
end zone.

It was the first time either team had returned a kick for a
touchdown in an Iron Bowl since 1969.

Shaud Williams cut it to 18-16 with a 6-yard touchdown run to
cap an eight-play, 82-yard drive on its next series.

Auburn answered with John Vaughn's 32-yard field goal.

Carnell Williams' long touchdown on the first play was the
team's longest gainer of the season. School officials also believed
it to be the first time Auburn has scored on its first play from
scrimmage since 1957.

The player who grew up an Alabama fan finally made his mark on
the state's biggest game.

"That's real special," Carnell Williams said. "I always
wanted to play in the Iron Bowl. It's overwhelming. It feels
great."

An offense that couldn't move the ball against Georgia produced
519 yards and a balanced attack against the Tide with an array of
big plays.

Campbell finished 18-of-27 for 270 yards with a 64-yard
touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu in the first quarter and two others
that would have been scores but for a drop and an unforced fumble.

Shaud Williams, the league's No. 1 rusher, gained 93 yards on 18
carries. The other Williams is right behind him.

Alabama was trying to join Georgia and Florida as the only
visitors to win three straight at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The visiting
team had won the past four games in the rivalry, and nobody was
happier than Tuberville to snap that streak.

"We pour our heart and soul into this game, and I know we
haven't played a great season and we've lost some games," he said.
"We've played a tough schedule, and our guys have played hard
every snap, every game, for four quarters, win or lose."