Power Ball: Tiger Tailbacks Have Big Performances

Auburn's ground attack was enough to deliver a knockout punch vs. Mississippi State to keep the Auburn football Tigers undefeated in SEC play.

Auburn, Ala.--Like a heavyweight boxer, the Auburn offense put Mississippi State down for the count with dangerous combination punches.

The Tigers one-three tailback combination rocked the Bulldogs as Carnell Williams averaged 10.7 yards per carry and third-stringer Brandon Jacobs averaged 5.9. With those two backs delivering body blows, Tommy Tuberville and the other Tiger coaches didn't even need to hit the Bulldogs with another big part of the running back arsenal, Ronnie Brown, who watched from the sidelines as the Tigers bashed the Bulldogs 45-13 on Saturday.

Brown was dressed and ready to play if needed, however, with Williams running for 161 yards and a school-record six touchdowns and Jacobs being a workhorse with 31 carries for 182 yards the Tigers were in good shape. Tre Smith added 20 yards on five carries.

"Ronnie could have played," Tuberville said. "He is almost 100 percent, but when you have a 100 percent Carnell and a 100 percent Brandon Jacobs and 100 percent Tre Smith there is no reason to play somebody who is not 100 percent."

Carnell Williams follows fullback Brandon Johnson.

Tuberville was asked if Williams, who set a school record with six touchdown runs, is the best back he has coached. "If he is not, he is pretty close," the coach said. "For a 200-pound running back, he breaks more tackles. He has got in the zone the past few weeks and nobody has found the right combination to stop him. It is fun to have him on our side, I will put it that way.

"If I was a defensive coordinator, I would be worried to death about trying to play him because you can get everybody lined up in the right spot and have the best defensive call. Somebody will make a hit, but he will break a tackle and keep on going. That is what frustrates a defense.

"He is very strong in his lower body," Tuberville said about the Cadillac. "Today he just had a great day. The holes were a little big bigger than they have been, but that long run (72 yards) was about as pretty as it gets when he broke all of those tackles and outran everybody. He has come into his own. I have not seen one nor have I seen one on TV this year as good as him."

Williams, who finished his day with 161 rushing yards on just 15 carries, made it a point to thank the offensive line for creating lots of running room. "Those guys up front they just came off the ball and they got me to the second defender," the Cadillac said. "It is always my job to make that guy miss or run over him. I did a good job of running through them and scored some touchdowns."

Williams broke the old record of five TD runs in one game held by former Tiger and pro star Joe Cribbs. "It feels real good," Williams said of the strong offensive performance that featured 405 net rushing yards. "Our offensive line works so hard during the week...with those guys up blocking like they did, it is a blessing."

Williams played briefly in the second half after scoring five touchdowns in the first two quarters. The game was under control, but the Tiger coaches wanted to give the junior tailback a chance to put his name in the record books. "Coach Gran (running backs coach Eddie Gran) in the second half told me he was going to give me a chance to break the record," Williams said. "I think the O lineman and all of those guys wanted me to break the record, too. Pretty much going into the second half I knew I was going to get a chance."

A smiling Williams, who started what is now a team-wide theme of "going crazy" to play with intensity on game days, said there is no reason to approach games any differently with the Tigers on a five-game winning streak. "As long as team keeps rolling, we keep pounding people and keep doing good, you will continue see me using the word crazy and going crazy," Williams said.

A smiling Gran was asked his opinion of Williams' performance and said, "That's crazy. That's absolutely crazy." Gran added that he liked all aspects of the running game vs. the Bulldogs. "The offensive line was coming off the ball. They had great pad level. Carnell does his stuff, but you start up front. I was proud of the way they ran. We had some good YAC (yards after contact) yards and I think they (the backs) have been running the ball with good pad level. When you do that you are going to get extra yards."

Brandon Jacobs had by far his best game in his first season as a Tiger.

Gran also had praise for backup tailback Brandon Jacobs, who led all rushers with 182 yards on 31 carries. "It was great to see him have 31 carries and run the ball that many times and keep on going," Gran noted. "You saw a little bit of his speed. You saw him get outside a couple of times and was exciting to me. You would like to see him be like a Rudi Johnson. As you talk about who you compare him to, he is like Rudi. He just breaks tackles. It was just great to see him contribute like he did today."

Tuberville had praise for Jacobs, too. "He gets better each week. He has got a lot more confidence in what he is doing," Tuberville said. "He is catching it better. That was a big catch he made. Jason threw it low in the first quarter and he caught it and ran for 30 or 40 yards. Players are getting more confidence in him. He still has got to learn how to pick his feet up on the outside. There are several times he could have gained more yards. He got tackled by the ankles, but he's a load and he gets better each week."

Jacobs had 30 carries for 200 yards this season coming into the game before nearly doubling his total with 182 more vs. Mississippi State. "I didn't have any idea I would carry the ball 31 times, but I knew I was going to get it," said Jacobs, who added that he was impressed by the offense as a whole. "I know if we come out like we are supposed to and work hard, we can beat anybody," he said.

Jacobs said he enjoyed seeing Williams make history with six TDs, even though he didn't get into the end zone himself. "I was so happy for him to break the record. He came back to the sideline and said, ‘Brandon, I am going crazy.' I said, ‘I am going crazy with you.' So we had two crazy people on the Auburn sideline."

Next up for the Tigers is a road trip to Louisiana, Jacobs' homestate, to play LSU. "I have been looking forward to this game since I came here," Jacobs said." We will go down there ready for a fight.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn had its best rushing day without one of its top blockers, sophomore tackle Marcus McNeill, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Steven Ross. McNeill has been bothered by back trouble. "Marcus McNeill probably could have gone," Tuberville said. "We decided to hold him for next week."...The Auburn head coach did not have much to say about Jackie Sherrill, the Mississippi State head coach he has had issues with since Tuberville's days at Ole Miss. Sherrill announced on Friday night that he is resigning as head coach at the end of the season. "There is not anything I can say about it," Tuberville said. "Obviously, he decided he had enough. That is about all I can say."


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