Tuberville Tries To Keep Tigers' Hot

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 4 Auburn is 6-0 for the first time under sixth-year coach Tommy Tuberville.

The Tigers' (3-0 in the Southeastern Conference) hot start is due to a stingy defense and the most balanced offense Tuberville's ever fielded entering Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game against Arkansas, a team which has won four of the last five meetings.

They're led again by senior running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, but are passing more with quarterback Jason Campbell throwing for 177 yards per game.

"We want to be a running football team if that's all we can be," said Tuberville, a Camden native. "But you've got to be balanced in this league because everybody has good defenses that give you problems."

"You try to be balanced, but it really doesn't make us much difference.

"We want to run the football first."

The 1-2 punch of Williams' explosiveness and Brown's power running has equaled nearly 200 rushing yards per game. Brown's numbers are up from 40.5 yards per game last year to 87 through the first six games, including nonconference wins against Louisiana-Monore, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech.

In conference play, Auburn beat Mississippi State 43-14 and Tennessee 34-10 on the road and then-No. 5 LSU 10-9 at home.

"We're just executing a little bit better and we've got a few seniors on the team that's been around and they're making plays," Tuberville said. "The offensive line is improved so they're a lot of the reason that we're playing better offensively."

Opponents are averaging just 7.2 points per game against the Tigers' defense, which ranks fourth nationally. They're one of only two Division I teams that haven't given up a rushing touchdown this season and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 11 games behind middle linebacker Travis Williams' team-high 36 tackles.

They've held their own against the pass as well, picking off an SEC-best 11 interceptions. That's included seven in the last two games, a 52-7 win against Louisiana Tech and a 34-10 win at Tennessee.

"We've kind of taken it in stride and focused on each week as it comes and not overlooked anybody," Tuberville said. "Anybody can win on any given day and that's been the forte of the conference for years and everybody has good players, so if you're not mentally ready to play, then you're not going to have a chance to be successful."

Auburn beat then-No. 7 Arkansas 10-3 last season in Fayetteville with the help of a fourth-quarter fumble by Hogs quarterback Matt Jones inside the Auburn 10-yard line.

Earlier in that same drive, Jones had a 78-yard touchdown run nullified because of a holding penalty.

"He'll be the fastest guy on the field come Saturday on both teams," Tuberville said. "He's a smart player and very, very good competitor. He really competes on every play and I think all the players around him play up to his potential and he makes everybody on the team much better."

Auburn began last season in the top 10 of most postseason polls before losing its first two games. That experience is why Tuberville insists his team will be able to handle its highest ranking in almost a decade (The Tigers were No. 3 on Nov. 12, 1994).

"We learned a lot from last year and I think the whole team has grown up quite a bit," Tuberville said. "We don't worry about the other teams. We just kind of worry about what we can control.

"Everybody knows that in this league, starting at the beginning of the year, anybody can win."

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