Artis-Payne A Key For Auburn Offense

Cameron Artis-Payne will be counted on to carry the load for the Tigers against a solid Wisconsin defense.

Tampa, Fla.--With Auburn’s offense coming off a 44-point performance against Alabama and the Wisconsin defense coming off a 59-point beatdown at the hands of Ohio State, the Outback Bowl could be a big day for the Tigers, but it won’t be easy if you listen to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Someone who has watched more film than just the Big 10 title game, Lashlee said he sees a defense that will be a very tough one for the Tigers to tame.

“Well, they're really good,” Lashlee said. “They get off the field on third down. They're really good. They give up under 60 plays a game, I think, so it's hard to stay on the field and I think that's why they won 10 games and really that last game, I think, was more of the exception to the rule. It was almost kind of an outlier and everything could go wrong went wrong.

“They have been really good on defense and they fly to the ball very well, they play man coverage well, they play zone coverage well, they pressure well. There is a reason they won 10 games and played in the Big Ten Championship game. It's a tough matchup for us.”

Artis-Payne makes a circus catch during Sunday's practice

While Nick Marshall and the Auburn passing game will need to continue to make plays, this game may be more about the running of Cameron Artis-Payne against a Wisconsin defense ranked among the best in the country at stopping the run. Carrying the ball 277 times for 1,482 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Artis-Payne leads the SEC in rushing, but is an underrated back to much of the nation, but not to Lashlee.

“I'm really proud of what he's done,” Lashlee said. “He has been excellent in pass protection. He has made a lot of great plays catching the ball. If I know CAP, he's just going go out and play his heart out this last game. Melvin Gordon is a phenomenal back. They have got a great match up with two great backs. I expect CAP to be what CAP's been and that's pretty steady. If he's not that flashy, he doesn't really care. But he's going to do really well after this game at the next level, I think.

“You're always happy when your guys have success, but someone like CAP, who does everything right and who's a great teammate, as a coach, it's really fulfilling to see him have the success he's had. He deserves everything he's got.”

Artis-Payne will need to have one more good showing for the Tigers if they hope to come away with win number nine on New Year’s Day. With Wisconsin known for bringing blitzes from all over the field to try to confuse a passing game, it may be up to the running game to get the job done for Auburn’s offense. Lashlee said they are prepared for a 60-minute game, something they’ve had plenty of practice at this season.

“They play really good team defense,” he said of Wisconsin. “Their corners do a nice job. Their safeties and good in coverage and in run support. Up front they’re multiple with their fronts. They do a really good job. They remind you a lot of…they’re different with their style and they play, Kansas State. It’s a great team defense. They don’t give up a lot of points and they don’t give up a lot of yards.”

Auburn will practice late Monday morning before heading to Busch Gardens for a bowl outing at the theme park.

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