Linebacker Says Tigers Have to "Bow Up"

Linebacker Travis Williams talks about the play of Auburn's defense and Vanderbilt's offensive improvement.

Auburn, Ala.--Creating turnovers is something the Auburn defense prides itself on doing. Last season the Tigers forced opponents into 32, just over two per game.

Auburn has just one takeaway this season and that's just one of the many reasons why the Tigers are 0-2 heading into this week's SEC opener with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

One of the few new starters for Auburn this season on defense is Travis Williams. A sophomore linebacker with a knack for finding the ball, Williams earned a starting job with his nose for the football in spring and preseason drills. Getting just one turnover this season is not acceptable for a defense looking to help the team get over the hump, the linebacker says.

"That's our goal every week, to create turnovers," Williams said. "Last week we knocked the ball out, but we didn't fall on it. That's just getting half of the job done by knocking the ball out. Once we knock the ball out we have to recover it and if we get our hands on a ball we have to intercept it. That's our job and we have to go out there and do it."

Travis Williams was one of the surprises for the defense heading into the 2003 season.

This week the task doesn't get any easier for the Tigers as they face a much-improved Commodore offense led by athletic quarterback Jay Cutler. Averaging 217 yards passing per game after throwing for just 186 yards in just over a half last weekend against Chattanooga, the sophomore will be a different player than the one the Tigers roughed up last season in an easy victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"His passing has improved a lot," Williams said. "He's tough. On film he gets hit a lot and he gets right back up. He's a tough guy. He's not going to just lay down. Every chance we get we have to hit him and we know he'll get right back up because he's a tough guy."

In addition to his passing prowess, Cutler is also adept at running the option, something that has been a thorn in the side of recent Auburn defenses. Last season Cutler rushed for 32 yards against the Tigers, but had 20 more taken away because of sacks. Williams said the Tigers can't let the option play be successful early because that sets the tone for the Vandy offense.

"That's our main thing, defending the option," Williams noted. "We're going to keep 'repping' it and when the game comes it will be second nature to us. They have a lot of other running plays that we rep, so we'll have to be ready for anything.

"This week is a big challenge because they do a lot of things that can go big," Williams added. "Basically everybody has to play their responsibility and not try to do too much. Just take care of our jobs and we'll be alright."

Perhaps the hardest job for the Tigers this week is to move forward after two embarrassing defeats to open the season. While it's going to be tough, Williams said this team is focusing on SEC play now and trying to get the ship righted as quickly as possible.

"It's SEC week," Williams said. "We're looking forward to SEC play now. We have to bow up. Once those first two games were over we forgot about them because if we look back that will allow Vanderbilt to creep up on us. We have to focus on Vanderbilt. That's our main goal."

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