Tigers Look To O Line Down The Stretch

Needing someone to lean on in crunch time, the Auburn Tigers have turned to the veterans of this team for leadership and they have delivered time and time again.

Auburn, Ala.--When you run the ball 62 times in one game, chances are you do it for a good reason. Saturday afternoon in Athens, the Auburn Tigers had more than one reason. In the end it came down to simply being the difference in winning and losing, something this team has gotten used to distinguishing the last two seasons.

"I felt like I was back in high school," senior left guard Hart McGarry says. "We used to pass one time a game in high school. That was a hard, smash-mouth game and I can tell we played very well by the fact that they were the most physical team we have gone against. The fact that we were able to put up the yards we did and win that kind of game the way we did is a triumph to us."

Going back to the formula that led to success last season when Auburn won 9 games and advanced to the SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators, the offensive coaches admit there have been some tough decisions made on the game plans in the past few weeks. In the end, the offensive line and running game always win out and they wouldn't have it any other way.

"Those guys love that," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone says of the offensive line. "They get a little frustrated with me I think when I come out in the first part of the game and I want to throw it. I've got all these great little routes that we've worked on all week and I want to throw it and do this and do that. I think that at halftime we made some good adjustments. Coach (Hugh) Nall and the offensive line, the one thing about those guys is that when things aren't clicking we can say ‘hey, let's just line up and get physical and run the ball at people' because they are the experience of our offense…every time we have asked them to do that they have stepped up to the challenge."

Running the football is an attitude, something a team does when it wants to impose its will on an opponent. Sometimes when you do it well, it means you have full control of the game. Saturday that was the case for Auburn as they kept Georgia's offense off the field and that wound up being the difference in the game.

"You can look at a team like Georgia," quarterback Daniel Cobb says. "An offense that is capable as theirs, the best way to level the playing field is to control the ball. 39 minutes to 21 minutes, to me that speaks volumes. It just says a lot about our ability to run the ball. If you look at it, we had to be going third and short a bunch, we were just pounding it for a while. It's extremely comfortable to know that on 3rd and 4 or less, we can run it up the middle or hit an outside toss behind that big offensive line and be able to get 4 when we need it."

Heading into the Alabama game the offensive line has to be considered the lifeblood of this Auburn team. One of the leaders of the unit is McGarry. The only Alabama native among the three seniors on the line, the 6-5, 284 Prattville native says this game means the world to him. Almost an Ole Miss Rebel before a late offer made him an Auburn Tiger, McGarry notes that this game is made more special when he thinks that he may have missed out playing in this rivalry.

"It's so big," he notes. "This is a game I have fought with other people about and been so crazy about since I was a little kid. The Auburn-Alabama game is so much. When you grow up in a town like I did you're either an Auburn or an Alabama fan. It was so funny because when people would move into our town, a military town because of the base, whoever would get to them first would try to make them an Auburn or an Alabama fan. I remember doing that when I was a kid and the other kids in the neighborhood. It's in my blood. To win this game would be 3 out of 5 in my career here, it would just be a huge thing for me.

"I'm just thankful," he notes. "I don't take anything for granted. I remember one of the guys told me a few years ago after one of the games, I was just sitting there smiling and I wasn't playing or anything, he said ‘you're just happy to be here aren't you'. I told him ‘damn right I am'. I don't take anything for granted and I know these are things I'll look back on the rest of my life."

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