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November 6, at Auburn Auburn 55 New Mexico State 14 GET OUT OF THE WAY Before they could tackle Georgia and Alabama, the Tigers had to push aside the Aggies

EARLY IN THE THIRD QUARter of Auburn's 55-14 rout of New Mexico
State, the public-address announcer at Jordan-Hare Stadium relayed
this score from Tuscaloosa: LSU 17, Alabama 13. The Tide's first loss
in 32 games meant that only Auburn remained unbeaten in the SEC, and
the news prompted a roar of pleasure from the 82,128 fans in the
stands. ''You know how Auburn folks are about Alabama,'' senior
offensive tackle Wayne Gandy said. ''If they heard ((Alabama was))
losing in a marble game, they would probably cheer.''
To the Auburn players, however, the Tide's loss was somewhat
disappointing. ''We wanted to be the ((first)) team to beat them,''
said cornerback Chris Shelling. But it was not a subject that weighed
much on the Tigers' minds. Indeed, that might have been this team's
most remarkable characteristic: The players hardly paused to consider
games other than the one at hand. Even with matchups against
archrivals Georgia and 'Bama coming up, Auburn had stayed focused on
New Mexico State throughout the week.
Not that this blinkered outlook came easily. ''During the week we
didn't talk about who plays for Georgia and what schemes they run,''
Gandy said. ''But when we were sitting around the dorm rooms,
everyone tried to control their emotions, because ((Georgia is))
going to be a big game.''
In essence every game was a big game for Auburn; players even
assigned a high-stakes nickname to each date. And while New Mexico
State headed into Auburn with little hope of a win, the Homecoming
Bowl, as the Tigers called it, was as important to Auburn as any
other contest.
The bowl MVP was quarterback Stan White, who seemed to set a
record with every snap. After his first pass slipped through fullback
Reid McMilion's hands, White completed his next 16 to set a school
mark. By game's end he had connected on 23 of 30 tosses for 248 yards
and rushed four times for 18 yards, becoming the SEC's alltime leader
in offensive plays and moving up to No. 3 in the conference in career
completions, passing yardage and total offense.
The game was yet another demonstration of White's growth as a
quarterback. He hooked up with eight different receivers and threw no
interceptions. ''The one thing I wanted to do was go out and be on
top of my game and carry it over to next week,'' White said.
The Tiger attack showed near-perfect balance: 290 yards through
the air, 289 on the ground. Tailback James Bostic pounded for 104
yards on a mere 11 carries, while fullback Tony Richardson busted
loose for a pair of touchdown runs. ''We're confident, very
confident, in ourselves,'' McMilion said. ''And especially confident
in Stan White. He had a remarkable day. He was on fire, and you've
got to be happy when that happens going into the last two games.''
Coach Terry Bowden could view the victory with much satisfaction.
''The thing I'm most pleased with about the game is not the outcome
or the score,'' he said. ''It's that we were playing about as well as
we can play. We looked very, very good offensively and defensively.
There was no lackadaisical football.''
But the nexus of Auburn's ninth win and Alabama's first loss made
speculation inevitable. Was the balance of power shifting within the
state? ''It's not over until the fat lady sings,'' Bowden said.
''We've all got two more games left this season.'' -- H.H.