In winning the last five games the Tigers have outscored their opponents 176-47, including an outrageous 114-13 advantage in the first half of those games. While many things have changed, Coach Hugh Nall said he believes much of the improvement has to do with Carnell Williams and an attitude adjustment the team went through upon arriving home from Atlanta following a loss to the Yellow Jackets.
"Who is the catalyst I don't know, but he's certainly been a catalyst," Nall said of Williams. "I think they all decided after the Georgia Tech game ‘by God, we're going to make something happen' and they have. We'll find out this week if we can keep it going."
That would mean having success against a LSU defense that has been stifling through seven games this season. First in the nation in points allowed (9.9) and first in the SEC in rushing yards allowed (53.1) per game and second in the SEC in total defense (263.4), the Tigers have dominated every running game they've faced this season. For the Tigers to have success quarterback Jason Campbell will need a solid performance, something he's been able to do in SEC games in his career. In 13 career SEC starts Campbell has a record of 11-2, including road wins at Alabama and Georgia among those.
Saturday's victory over Mississippi State was one that will be remembered for the play of Williams and the blocking of the Auburn offensive line. In the 45-13 victory the Tigers rushed for 405 yards with Williams setting an Auburn record with six rushing touchdowns. Nall said he was pleased with the play of the offense and in particular sophomore Steven Ross. Both a tight end and offensive tackle this season, Ross started in place of sophomore Marcus McNeill at strong tackle and played well in the victory.
"I thought it was a good performance," Nall said. "The effort was really good. We had to change around some guys and move Steven in there and for him not being in that position but two days I thought they played well. I thought our technique and fundamental part was a lot better. It was a good day.
"He did okay," Nall added of Ross. "There were a few times when he got overpowered on inside running plays. For the most part he really did a nice job blocking big Kelly (#55 Tommy Kelly). He was on him most of the day. I thought he really held his own and did a nice job."
One of the players who has been silent for the Auburn offense since early in the season is redshirt freshman wide receiver Courtney Taylor. Through three games Taylor had 15 catches and was Auburn's most reliable receiver. Since that time defenses have begun to pay more attention and that has resulted in just five catches the last four games, but Saturday when Auburn needed him most Taylor came up with one of the plays of the game.
After going three and out on their first drive of the game, the Tigers opened the second series with a pass to Taylor in the flat. Breaking a tackle, Taylor gained 16 yards and lit a flame in the Tigers that would last all day. Nall said Taylor's play and the blocking of Brandon Johnson are two things that stood out to him in the victory over Mississippi State, a victory he hopes will carry into this week's contest with LSU.
"I thought the whole group played well and played hard," Nall said. "I think Courtney Taylor's catch sparked us. The quick hitch route we threw to him when he broke a few tackles, that kind of got things moving. We had not moved it like I wanted to. That kind of got the spark going. The way Carnell ran the ball and the way Brandon (Brandon Jacobs) ran the ball and you can't say enough about Brandon Johnson's blocking. If you know anything about football you get excited about watching him and excited about the game."