Senior Offensive Lineman Coming On Strong

Senior Mark Pera talks about the resurgence of the offense and the importance of playing well and earning a victory over Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.--There were several players on the Auburn football team that came to Jordan-Hare Stadium especially ready to play football Saturday night, but perhaps none was as fired up as senior offensive tackle Mark Pera.

While many others like Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown chose the Tigers over the Vols, Pera didn't even get a scholarship offer from the state school and says that gave him a little extra motivation in his first game against the Big Orange.

"It was good to go out and show those guys what they're missing," Pera says. "They told me I could come as an invited walk-on. I ended up coming here. It was great to play against them, perform good, play well as a team and as an offense and show what we could do."

Offensive tackle Mark Pera is shown walking off the field following Auburn's win over Tennessee. Tight end Coach Patrick Moore hugs Anthony Mix to his left.

Things didn't take long to gel against the Vols as the Tigers came out and established themselves early. On the game's very first possession, quarterback Jason Campbell led the Tigers on an 80-yard, 10-play drive for a touchdown. That gave the Tigers the confidence to know they could succeed against a defense like Tennessee.

"That was the best opening drive we've had since I've been here," Pera says. "We just came out and established the run and kept running it mixing in a couple of play-actions here or there. It was just a great drive to start the game and establish the tempo.

"I think our whole offense played well, especially the offensive line," he adds. "We've been taking some heat this year, but against a defense like that, that is pretty decent, we went out and played a pretty good game."

Saying it was a pretty good game is an understatement for Pera's play Saturday night. The senior finished with five pancake blocks, three cockroach blocks (which occur when the defensive man is on his back with his feet and legs in the air) and 10 rodeo blocks (when an offensive player rides his man to the ground from whistle to whistle). His game is one of the finest played by an Auburn tackle in the Tuberville Era.

Struggling through the first two games running the ball with just 83 yards rushing on 74 attempts and no scores, the Tigers have exploded on the ground the last three games for 768 yards and 11 touchdowns. The depth in the backfield has been exploited, but Saturday night it was all about junior Carnell Williams.

With co-starter Ronnie Brown out with a strained hamstring, the chore of salting the game away belonged to Williams and that's just what he did. Carrying the ball 36 times, he finished the game with 185 yards and made run after run that is good enough for the highlight reel. Nobody knows that better than Pera, who has a chance to see Williams' talents all the time on the field and is very appreciative of his teammate and the way he plays the game.

"Carnell was running unbelievable," Pera says. "That's the best I've ever seen him run. He was making cuts and he was making us look good. We were playing well, but he made us look great. He's a great running back and he was just on his game."

Following easy wins over Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky, the Tigers were staring at possibly having the entire season turn in the wrong direction with a loss to Tennessee. Knowing that this game was perhaps the most important of the season, Pera says that he had a talk with several players to let them know the Tennessee game could be the key to the season.

"This is a springboard kind of game for the rest of our season because we're starting the SEC and playing three Top 10 teams the next four games (Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU)," Pera recounting what he told his teammates before the Tennessee game. "We needed to get off to a good start this weekend and I think we did that."

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