By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Undeterred by a 46-pound disadvantage, Stephen Roberts lowered his shoulder and brought down Alabama’s running back 1 yard shy of a first down.
A crucial play at a crucial time.
“Don’t be scared,” Roberts said. “Can’t be scared. You’ve got to be physical. You’ve got to wrap up. That’s one thing that we talk about every day in practice, wrapping up and tackling.”
In the third quarter, Auburn answered Alabama’s touchdown drive with a Daniel Carlson field goal, pulling the Tigers within one point at 14-13.
On the next possession, on third-and-5 from Alabama’s 28, 235-pound Bo Scarbrough caught a screen pass with only one Tiger standing in the way of a first down and potentially a big gain. Roberts, a 189-pound senior from nearby Opelika, Alabama, accepted the challenge.
“If you bring it to them, they’ll slow up. If you don’t, they’re going to bring it to you,” Roberts said. “That was my mindset. To get him.”
Roberts’ tackle forced a three-and-out. Auburn’s offense then drove 69 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, never to trail again.
“Stephen played great,” said Deshaun Davis, who made seven tackles. “He came up and made a lot of open-field tackles. Bo’s a really big back. If you put in on paper and you see Stephen Roberts running at Bo Scarbrough, 10 times out of 10, you’ll say Bo Scarbrough will win. But Stephen probably has the biggest heart on the defense, and he gives us everything we need, even on special teams, so we appreciate him.”
“It was big, just making plays, big game for us,” Roberts said. “We came in with a chip on our shoulder.”
Auburn’s safeties, Roberts and Tray Matthews, combined for 14 tackles. Matthews led the way with eight.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Matthews said. “I’ve never felt this feeling before. It’s like a fairy tale.”
Matthews and Co. can write another chapter in Atlanta when Auburn plays Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
“We’ve been in this position before, playing big teams,” Matthews said. “Georgia’s a great team, so we’ll have to be ready for those guys.”
Auburn’s 19 seniors, Matthews and Roberts included, walked off Pat Dye Field for the final time, having defeated two top-ranked teams in three weeks.
“It was big, especially being my last game at Jordan-Hare Stadium,” Roberts said. “The No. 1 team, it’s overwhelming to me. I can’t believe I’ve been here for four years, hadn’t ever beaten [those] two rivals. And we just beat those two teams, so that’s kind of big for us.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer