Campbell Hopes To Lead Climb Up The Polls

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are the next obstacle on Auburn's climb back to college football respectability after taking a step forward vs. Vanderbilt.

Auburn, Ala.--After a much better performance personally and by his team in Auburn's last outing, Jason Campbell says he is eager to get back to game action this Saturday following a week off from game action.

Jason Campbell

The junior quarterback and his teammates will try to even their record at 2-2 in a non-conference contest vs. Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers, who are the defending Division I-AA national champions, come to Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 13-game winning streak, but will be the underdog as a I-AA team playing Division I-A Auburn for the first time.

Campbell has been watching the Hilltoppers in videos from last year and from their three victories this season over Union (51-3), West Virginia Tech (67-3) and Eastern Kentucky (36-3). "They are I-AA but they don't look like it," Campbell says. "They play at a much higher tempo than a I-AA team. They are very competitive. They really get after it. They are an exciting team to watch on film."

Western Kentucky will line up in a 3-4 defensive front that is small and quick. Look for the Hilltoppers to blitz early and often to try to keep Campbell from getting into a passing rhythm like he did in game three, a 45-7 victory at Vandy following two disappointing losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech in which the Tiger offense did not score a touchdown. Campbell passed for two touchdowns in Nashville and did not have an interception.

Quarterback coach Steve Ensminger says that there was a lot to like in Campbell's performance at Nashville and wants to see the junior build on the positives from that game. "His timing was better and he threw the ball well and to the right places," Ensminger says.

Western Kentucky is small physically on defense, but has an athletic group. "Their defense is really quick," Campbell says of the Hilltoppers. "They really move to the ball."

Campbell completed 12-19 passes for 220 yards vs. Vandy with several good passes not being caught.

Auburn's victory at Vanderbilt made the off week following that game easier to handle for the Tigers, a team that was very disappointed after not playing well in its two losses to open the season. "At first it felt like you fell off a mountaintop," Campbell says of the early setbacks. "Now it feels like we are climbing back up it. It was great momentum for us to get a win under our belt. You know we had an off week last week to get everybody healed back and have an opportunity to watch some more games and sit down and relax for a weekend."

Campbell says the time for relaxing is gone with games the next nine straight Saturdays. "From here on out, every game is going to be really tough," he says. "A lot of teams are evenly matched as you can see on TV. It is going to be great for momentum if we come out this weekend and play hard."

Auburn's loss to Southern Cal got the season off to a rocky start, but heavily-favored the Tigers' loss at Georgia Tech was one of the most unexpected results so far during the 2003 college football season. Campbell says he and his teammates are well aware of all the victories by underdogs so far this year and says the Tigers will take Western Kentucky seriously. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday. "We have been seeing a lot of upsets happening over the last weekend and it makes it not easy to overlook it right there because you don't want to be upset."

Campbell adds that he saw his team make progress with the running attack in the off week while continuing to work on the timing of the passing game. He has a new wideout to throw the football to in game four with tight end Anthony Mix moving outside to wide receiver, the position he played last year and in high school. "Mix is a pretty big target," Campbell says. "It gives him an opportunity to get more involved in the game as far as having an opportunity to use his ability in the open field and make plays. It is going to be exciting to see what he can do for us in that position."

The Western Kentucky game will be televised on a pay per view basis. Persons interested in watching can order it through their local cable company. C-Band home dish subscribers can call 1-800-TV-STARS to order and Dish Network subscribers will have a channel from which to order the telecast. Andy Burcham will do the play-by-play while former Tiger quarterback Charlie Trotman will provide game analysis.


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