Ronnie B and The Cadillac Eager For Showdown

Auburn, Ala.--After a disappointing 8-5 season in 2003, Auburn running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown had a big decision to make.

Both had one year remaining of eligibility at the college level, but they also had an opportunity for the riches of the NFL as high-round draft picks.

Nearly seven months after the draft, the talented duo has carried Auburn to a 9-0 overall record, 6-0 in the SEC, a number three national ranking and a Western Division Championship.

"I feel like that's one of the best decisions I've made in my life to come back to Auburn University and be a part of this team," Williams says. "Just to be a part of what we're doing, the atmosphere and things like that. I'm very happy with the decision I made."

Brown, a back too talented to ride the bench, has been a backup to Williams throughout his career. He gained only 446 yards during an injury-plagued 2003 under then offensive coordinator Hugh Nall. However, under first-year Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges, Brown and Williams have been on the field at the same time.

"It kind of makes me feel pretty good," Brown says about returning for his senior season. "When you make a decision like that, a big decision, you never want to feel like you've second guessed yourself, but since that point everything has been good. The season has been tremendous for us."

Not only have Williams and Brown enjoyed the success of Borges' offense, but their NFL stock has improved significantly. In a Nov. 8 release by Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., there were only three running backs in his Top 32 players, which included underclassmen.

Williams was rated the fourth best overall prospect.

Brown was rated the 10th.

Ronnie Brown is averaging 7.3 yards per carry as a senior.

Borges' offense seems to be a perfect fit for the two potential future first-rounders. Aside from Auburn's game against The Citadel, which Brown sat out, both backs have gained at least 50 yards in all nine games this season.

One of the aspects that scouts told Auburn coaches that Williams and Brown needed to work on was their catching ability. Williams has 11 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown, and Brown has 18 receptions for 176 yards. Brown has a catch in all eight games he has played.

"I think just as a running back Carnell and myself got to do some different things within our offense this season that a lot of people (scouts) had a lot of questions about last year before we decided to make our decision to come back," Brown says. "We've both improved in those areas and I think it's helped us coming back this year."

Running the ball, Williams has six games of at least 95 yards and 862 yards with nine touchdowns on the year. Brown has four 100-yard performances, three of which have come in the last four games. He has 689 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the year.

Williams and Brown will be counted on heavily Saturday in one of the biggest, if not the biggest game of their careers against the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

"They've got a real good team, we've got a good team and it's the oldest rivalry in the South," Williams says. "The intensity around here has already picked up a lot so we're just looking forward to the game."

Ronnie Brown runs in Auburn's 35-14 victory over Ole Miss.

Brown, a native of Cartersville, Ga., knows a bit about the rivalry himself, having played in two classic battles and witnessing another classic as a redshirt. "It's an exciting game and you really don't know what's going to happen down to the last minute or second of the game," he says. "You just hate to be on the losing side of that.

"I think as far as our intensity level it's raised a little bit," he adds. "Everybody's excited about the game and excited about practice. That's a little different for us--everybody being excited about practice knowing what's at stake and the things we need to do and stay motivated."

During their four year careers at Auburn, Williams and Brown have been on the winning and losing end of a last-minute game. As a freshman in Athens in 2001, Williams carried the ball for an Auburn record 41 times for 167 yards and two scores. The clock ran out on Georgia just one yard away from tying the game, as Auburn won 24-17.

In 2002 with Williams injured, Brown carried 25 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, but was injured late in the game. Georgia completed a 19-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 15 with 1:25 remaining to win 24-21.

The Cadillac (left) is second in Auburn career rushing yardage with 3,528 and Ronnie B is seventh with 2,483.

Last season was all Georgia, as neither Williams nor Brown had much success. The Bulldogs romped 26-7, a game Williams still vividly remembers.

"We didn't play well," he says. "They just out-manned us and out-played us for four quarters and sent us home like a top team is supposed to, like they were last year. The feeling wasn't too good. They manhandled us."

The Tigers haven't lost since that lowly night in Athens. Thanks to Williams and Brown, Auburn holds an 11-game win streak, fourth best in Division I behind USC, Boise State and Utah.

That win streak will definitely be tested Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

"They're such a good defense--one of the best teams I feel like we'll play all year," Williams says of the Bulldogs. "They're real physical. They run a base defense where they don't do much blitzing. They just line up and out-man you. I feel like we've got go come out and establish the run early so it'll set up some things for our passing game."

Against a tough Georgia defense that's surrendering less than 300 yards per game, Brown says that getting on the scoreboard early is a something the Tigers need to do if they want to improve to 10-0.

"They're just technique-sound and they do everything right," he says. "We just have to come out and match their intensity, if not come over it. We're have to come out and get started early in the game. I think that will be the main thing for us--beating them to the punch."

The national college football spotlight will be on The Plains Saturday, and there would be no better way to play their final home game than to beat a rival ranked in the top five in front of a national audience.

"That was on my mind last week," Williams says. "I know this is going to be my last Auburn game at home so I'm really truly looking forward to it."

For Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, they have a bright NFL future to look forward to as well.

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