Daily photo by Emily Saunders|
Aubie, with his five fingers for five straight wins, and Suzanne Tuberville celebrate after the second half of the Iron Bowl with Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who is Suzanne’s husband, and David Irons. The Tigers beat the Crimson Tide, 22-15.
Five fingers symbolize Auburn's winning streak over Alabama
By Josh Cooper and Bradley Handwerger
TUSCALOOSA — Tommy Tuberville started a slow walk over to the Auburn rooting section at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Then a jog. Then in his right hand, he started twirling his hat as the orange and blue sea started a low rumble.
All week, both Alabama and Auburn had talked about it — one team disliked it, while one team welcomed it.
And finally, Tuberville released it, the most hated thumb in Bama nation. Fear the Thumb, as in a fifth straight victory in the Iron Bowl series. With a 22-15 Auburn win, it became reality — Auburn’s first five-game win streak over the Crimson Tide since 1954-58.
“It’s hard to put words to what this team’s done over the years,” said Tuberville, the Auburn head coach. “We don’t have a lot of superstars out there. We’re one of the winningest teams in the league the last few years.”
The thumb business started after Auburn’s win in last year’s Iron Bowl when Tiger players and Tuberville waved four fingers. It continued when Tuberville appeared in a photograph at the Tigers’ bowl game wearing a “Fear the Thumb” shirt.
The thumb has become a symbol of Auburn’s recent dominance over the Crimson Tide, which now finds itself answering questions about the program’s future.
“There’s a lot of accountability, and as always it starts with the head coach, then the assistant coaches, then the players,” said Alabama coach Mike Shula, who is 0-4 against Auburn.
“The questions that you have about the evaluation process, I haven’t thought about that stuff.”
In his postgame news conference, Tuberville made a point to sidestep questions about the thumb. That didn't stop his players, though.
Auburn defensive back David Irons said he will be using his thumb the entire Thanksgiving break this week. "We've won five in a row. I guess you throw up a thumb," Irons said. "I'll walk around with a thumb up on Thanksgiving break. The turkey I'm going to eat doesn't have a thumb, so that's cool."
Auburn offensive lineman Tim Duckworth, though, says there's only one way he'll get a "thumb" shirt if the players aren't given them.
"If they don't give it to me, I don't think I can purchase one," Duckworth said. "I'm cheap. I'll probably take a shirt and write on it. Put my hand on it and trace. Five for your thumb. All that stuff."
For Alabama, however, there was no joking afterward. In addition to another loss to Auburn, the Crimson Tide faces an uncertain bowl future. South Carolina became the Southeastern Conference's ninth bowl-eligible team Saturday after defeating Middle Tennessee State, but the league is guaranteed only eight bowl berths.
In the interview room after the game, players were using words such as "hope" and "pray" when it came to the team's bowl chances. In terms of the future of Shula and his assistant coaches, the team was resolute in staying the course.
"With (Shula's) leadership, we're headed in the right direction," sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "We're behind him. We have a good group of guys that can learn from everything that's happened."
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