Enjoying The Spotlight: Big Game Is Big Fun

This veteran Auburn football player discusses Saturday's showdown in Knoxville and the 2004 Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Carlos Rogers enjoys playing the big games under the bright lights with lots of people in the stands and a national television audience checking out the action.

All of those factors will be in play as his Tigers take on the Tennessee Volunteers at 6:45 p.m. CDT on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. ESPN will televise the game to a national audience and its college football gameday show will originate from outside the stadium.

"I really get excited about playing a game on television like this one one so my family and friends can see me play," Rogers says with a grin. "They don't get to go to many games because we don't get many tickets to give to them so it is nice to be able to show them what I am doing."

Saturday's game is expected to attract other buddies who have seen and played in a lot of Auburn games with Rogers, who is a fourth-year starter at cornerback.

"Karlos Dansby (Arizona Cardinals), DT (Dontarrious Thomas) and T-Rob (Travaris Robinson, Atlanta Falcons) have called us to let us know that they are keeping up with the good things we are doing on defense," says Rogers, whose team is currently ranked second nationally in points allowed per game. "They told us that they are proud of what we are doing and to keep it up."

If they keep it up this week, that will be a major accomplishment with the 3-0 Vols leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense. Tennessee, with its big backs and speedy fleet of receivers, is expected to offer a major test for the entire defense and the secondary in particular.

Rogers says he is looking forward to the challenge of taking on all of the UT wideouts, even if they keep substituting fresh players in the game. "We are in pretty good shape," Rogers says. "We aren't worried about that part. In the LSU game, I played on every defensive play and on special teams. We have some defensive backs who can come in and sub, but I don't want to come out the game."

Carlos Rogers gets a hug from Auburn assistant coach Eddie Gran.

Last year the Tigers defeated Tennessee 28-21 in Auburn. In that contest Auburn shut down the UT running game, but allowed the Vols to rally from a 28-7 deficit in the fourth quarter with the passing game to make the final score close.

"We are much better defense than we were last year," Rogers says. "We have always had good players, but this year we are playing together better as a group.

"We are staying on our correct keys and being smart as a total defense. Every blitz and every defense we run is designed for you to make a play as well as the next man. As long as we keep that mindset, it will take us a long way."

Rogers says he is glad that he returned for his senior year instead of deciding to enter the NFL draft. He says that his fellow seniors and friends, roommate Carnell Williams plus Ronnie Brown, feel the same way. "It is really good. That is something we have been thinking about and talking about," Rogers says. "I think it was a good decision for all of us.

"Last year we could have left and made some money, but to come back and be a part of this team is a good thing. Since I have been here, I haven't been to the SEC Championship Game and I haven't been on a team that started the season 4-0 with a ranking in the Top 10. We are going to do our best to keep it going."

Rogers says the winning streak, which is at six going back to last year's victories over Alabama and Wisconsin, is a point of pride.

"It is real important," he says. "That is something our coaches have talked about. We need to concentrate on one game at a time and not get too ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of confidence in this team--not just the starters. It is the backups and the walk-ons, too. We are going to keep working together and try to prolong the winning streak.

Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 6:45 p.m. CDT from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

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