Auburn, Ala.--This Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium the Auburn Tigers (8-3, 5-2) are expected to have running back Kamryn Pettway and fullback Chandler Cox back on offense, but they’re not the only key players returning for Coach Gus Malzahn’s football team.
Maybe just as important for the matchup against Alabama is having junior linebacker Tre Williams back on the field. Hurt in the win over Ole Miss, Williams is still third on the team with 53 tackles despite missing two games.
Now he is back and ready to go along with good friend and fellow inside linebacker DeShaun Davis. Malzahn said facing Alabama’s physical offense makes it important that the Tigers having two of their leaders back and ready to go this week.
“I think it’s very important, that’s our two starters,” Williams said. “Those are the guys that have worked together a whole lot, and having them ready for this week is real big.”
Williams and Davis are two of the keys for an Auburn defense that has continued to get better this season. Allowing 231 ground yards to Texas A&M, including an 89-yard touchdown run, and 220 yards to LSU, Auburn has put the clamps down on the running game since that time.
Allowing only four rushing touchdowns this year with that run against the Aggies the last one, Auburn’s defense has given up just under 90 yards per game in the last seven contests. Williams said the success has come because of the way the Tigers have approached each and every week.
“Ever since the Clemson game we've gotten better each week, and that was our goal,” Williams said. “We weren't about the end of the season. We were really worried about getting better each game. Each game, we got better in some category. That was something we had to work toward. Coach (Kevin) Steele put a lot of emphasis on it.”
This week Auburn will have its biggest physical challenge since LSU with a trip to Alabama for the Iron Bowl. Averaging 249.8 yards per game on the ground with 23 touchdowns, Alabama's running attack is led by Damien Harris with 850 yards while quarterback Jalen Hurts has added 803 yards and a team-high 11 scores.
“We’re just really going to focus on us," Williams noted. "Whatever happens, happens. Of course, they are undefeated right now and we are going to go into the game like we’re both 0-0. This is really for the season. This game right here is for the season.
“It’s also for the bragging rights for the next 365. It doesn’t matter who they beat or who they played. On Saturday they play the Auburn Tigers so like I said, we’re going to be well prepared and ready to go.”