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Auburn looking for a big finish in Outback Bowl
Jan. 1, 2015

Cameron Artis-Payne, left, and Corey Grant celebrate an Auburn touchdown

By Charles Goldberg

TAMPA, Fla. -- Corey Grant came to Auburn as a walk-on after spending a year at Alabama. He's leaving with as Auburn's third-leading rusher this season and a cool nickname he earned as the last thing defenders saw as he headed toward the end zone.

"Taillights. That was pretty nice," Grant said.

Grant will be among 20 seniors who play their last game for Auburn in the Outback Bowl against Wisconsin at 11 a.m., Auburn time, in Raymond James Stadium. Already there is change in the air. Those seniors and seven walk-ons will be gone, as well as electric receiver Sammie Coates who is heading to the NFL a year early. There's already been the arrival of new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who serve as an observer in the bowl game.

Auburn is 8-4. Wisconsin is 10-3. Both teams are looking for bounce-back performances from their last game and, in this one, the early TV eyes will be on the running back showdown between Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.

"As a defense, we're going to step up in this game," said Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford on the prospect of facing Gordon, the nation's leading rusher.

Wisconsin will have to deal with Artis-Payne, and Nick Marshall, who needs 37 yards to pass Phil Gargis as Auburn's all-time leading rusher as a quarterback. Marshall already has a school-record 100-yard rushing games.

Passing? Oh, he can do that, too. He set school records for passing, with 456 yards, and total offense, with 505 yards, in his last game, against Alabama.

Grant doesn't lead the SEC in rushing, as Artis-Payne does, but he's an experienced back who has seen the high roads and the pitfalls of playing in the SEC.
"We had our ups and downs, but through those ups and downs, we grew and learned a lot," Grant said.

 Defensive lineman Angelo Blackson was there for it all.

"You get to experience both worlds. You just grow. It's a learning experience," Blackson said.

"I think it's going to be great to look back on the team. It's very important to have that family atmosphere. I've been parts of teams that had that family atmosphere and teams that weren't so close, but the biggest thing is the camaraderie. I'm going to miss all these guys when I get out in the real world."

Coates is leaving Auburn after his junior year. There's no hard feelings. He's among Auburn's most popular players, for his catches, for his good work in the community and hospital visits.

It's been a two-way street.

"Auburn changed my life tremendously and it did so much for me," Coates said. "I just love our fans because they've been with us through the good times and the bad. They've always supported us."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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