Cordova's Ryan Smith difference-maker for Auburn
by Johnathan Bentley
Nov 22, 2013 | 3121 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn's Ryan Smith heads up the field after an interception against Ole Miss this season. Smith, a senior defensive back, is fifth on the team in tackles this season. The former Cordova High School star has started the last five games and is also second on the team in interceptions. Photo by Jeff Johnsey
Auburn's Ryan Smith heads up the field after an interception against Ole Miss this season. Smith, a senior defensive back, is fifth on the team in tackles this season. The former Cordova High School star has started the last five games and is also second on the team in interceptions. Photo by Jeff Johnsey
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AUBURN — From a national championship to the cellar and back to the top — Ryan Smith has seen it all during his football career at Auburn.

In his freshman season, the former Cordova High School standout was part of Auburn’s first national championship team in 53 years.

Two years later, Smith and the Tigers suffered through a winless SEC season and put together one of the worst records in Auburn football history.

That roller-coaster ride is now complete.

With only a few games remaining in his Auburn career, the Tigers are ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings and have a shot at an SEC Championship — and possibly more.

“We've got a chance do something special,” said Smith, a senior defensive back.

“We just have to stay focused on what we need to do. It’s all on the line come Iron Bowl time. We believed we had a chance to be at this point. We’ve been working all summer for this.”

This year’s Iron Bowl, set for next Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, will decide the SEC West champion.

Smith, a 2009 Cordova High School graduate, has saved his best for last at Auburn. After recording 50 tackles over the last two years, Smith has shined under new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

Smith, who has started the last five games, is currently fifth on the team in tackles with 46.

He’s also second on the team in interceptions with three — including one against Georgia’s Aaron Murray in last week’s thrilling 43-38 victory over the Bulldogs.

Auburn won the game despite allowing three touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Georgia rallied from a 37-17 deficit for a 38-37 with 1:49 remaining.

The Bulldogs took the lead on a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down by Murray. Smith met Murray at the goal line on the play.

The play was ruled a touchdown and the call was upheld following a replay.

“No, I didn’t think he was in, but that’s what they called and we leaned on our offense to make a two-minute drive,” Smith said.

Down a point and facing a 4th-and-18 play from its own 23-yard line, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a deep ball into double coverage.

Georgia defensive backs converged on the ball with Josh Harvey-Clemons batting the ball to Auburn’s Ricardo Louis, who went untouched in the end zone for the winning score.

The play has had a life of its own, both on ESPN and social media.

“I’m standing there just watching the ball. When I saw the ball go up, I knew Ricardo has good hands and good eye coordination so he could make the play. It was the biggest play of the year by far,” Smith said.

“I’ve never seen a game end like that. It was meant to be. It was meant for us to get that play in the end.”

The Georgia game was just the latest thriller to go Auburn’s way this season.

The Tigers have won four games by eight points or less.

Auburn needed a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining to beat Mississippi State 24-20 in the SEC opener and the Tigers turned to their defense in the end during a 45-41 victory at Texas A&M.

Smith had key interceptions against both Texas A&M and Georgia.

The Tigers turned both interceptions into points.

“That was the biggest catch of my career,” Smith said of his interception of Murray.

“They had been running the same play and I knew he would come back to it. He overthrew it a little bit and I was there. Each game is more important so the plays you make are that much bigger.”

Now Alabama stands in the way of Auburn and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.  

Auburn (10-1) will be going for its first win over the Tide since 2010. Smith likes Auburn’s chances.

“Our team doesn’t lack confidence at all,” Smith said.

“We know what Alabama does. We know they are a sound football team. They’re not going to beat themselves or make mistakes.”