Tiger From Tennessee Looking Forward To Rematch

Auburn tight end Cooper Wallace is looking to go 3-0 vs. the Vols.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn tight end Cooper Wallace was raised in Nashville, Tenn., and grew up following Tennessee football. However, he was never offered a chance to play for the Volunteers.

As a starter on Auburn's 11-0 squad, the tight end will have a chance Saturday to beat his home-state Volunteers for the third time in two years and win the SEC Championship.

"Growing up I thought about playing there because they're the only college football I really watched," Wallace says. "They've got a good team this year--better than most people think. I've always respected them growing up. They're kind of the team in Nashville. It'll be special to beat them to win the SEC."

Tennessee has struggled defensively in recent weeks, giving up 33 points to Vanderbilt and 31 points to Kentucky. However, Wallace says he believes that the Vols will put up a better fight against Auburn after getting embarrassed in their first meeting.

"I think they'll definitely play better against us," he says. "I don't know what happened the last two weeks. I don't think they've looked like the Tennessee that we played. They have got a good team and they have got some good defensive players. I know I'll be going up against number 98 (defensive end Parys Haralson) and number 2, (linebacker Kevin) Burnett. They've got some good players and some good athletes. I think they are better than they have performed the last two weeks and I think they are going to give us their best shot."

The Tigers are heavy favorites to beat the Vols for the second time in 2004. Auburn won the previous meeting 34-10 on Oct. 2 at Neyland Stadium. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 194-32 in the first half this season, and the game against Tennessee was no different as Auburn took a 31-3 lead into halftime in front of 100,000 plus stunned fans in Big Orange country.

Cooper Wallace

Early in the game with Auburn leading 7-3, the Tigers were facing a second and goal from the five-yard line when Jason Campbell found Wallace open in the back of the end zone. "I thought I performed pretty well last time against them," he says. "I had a touchdown of my dreams that I dropped. Maybe I'll get another chance."

However, the play didn't cost the Tigers as Campbell found Ben Obomanu for a touchdown on third down and Auburn took a 14-3 lead. Later in the first half with Auburn leading 17-3, Wallace had a big play to set up Auburn's third touchdown of the game.

Campbell found Wallace open again in the flats and the tight end rumbled 31 yards down to the Tennessee 13-yard line. Two plays later, Auburn tailback Carnell Williams ran over a pair of Tennessee defensive backs for a 24-3 lead.

Wallace has played a key role in the success of the Auburn rushing attack all season with his blocking, helping Williams rush for 1,004 yards and Ronnie Brown for 795 yards.

"That's something I've worked at really hard and I take a lot of pride in," Wallace says. "I want to give my best effort every time. I know that if I can get Ronnie or Carnell past the line of scrimmage it's probably going to be at least 10 yards. That's a big thing. A lot of the times they're running outside of me and I know if I can secure the edge then it doesn't really matter as much what the people on the backside do. I take a lot of pride in getting them to the second level."

Wallace's role in the Auburn passing game has increased in recent weeks. He had only seven receptions for 111 yards in the first eight games, but as the competition has gotten tougher Wallace has become a bigger part of the offense. He has caught eight passes for 125 yards in the last three games.

"When they are making their game plans they are going to look at the defense," he says. "(Tight ends) Coach Ensminger makes up some plays for us every few weeks and we'll get a few new plays. It's all about looking at the defense and finding their holes. A lot of defenses don't pay too much attention to the tight end. I haven't gotten an absurd amount of catches this year, so I think a lot of teams might look past me a little bit and that's going to open me up some."

Whether it's blocking or receiving, the junior doesn't care what he's doing as long as the wins keep coming. "As long as we keep doing what we're doing that's fine with me," he says. "We haven't lost yet. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I need the ball, because we're 11-0 right now so let's just keep doing what we're doing.

"Having Ronnie and Carnell, you obviously want to get the ball to them every chance you can," Wallace adds. "They're going to do a lot more with it than I am. Also, it's my job to get open probably more than I have. I think our team this year is such an all around team. We've got great receivers, great running backs, great everything."


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