Tigers Looking To Finish In Style

Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Tommy Tuberville talk about their football team as the Tigers make their final preparations for the Nokia Sugar Bowl game.

New Orleans, La.--Seniors Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown are just hours away from their final college football game as Auburn running backs and their head coach, Tommy Tuberville, says it is vitally important to the coaching staff and players that their curtain call is a winning one.

"This season has been great for Carnell, Ronnie and Carlos (Carlos Rogers), too," said Tuberville after he watched the Tigers go through a light practice on Saturday at the Louisiana Superdome.

"It would have been tough if one of them got hurt or if we lost four or five games and had to go through another year like we went through last year," Tuberville added. "I didn't want them to have to go through that. They are friends. They didn't come back to win any big time awards. They came back to football.

"If one of them came back to win the Heisman, it probably wouldn't have worked," Tuberville said. "They decided they would come back and help each other out so one back wouldn't have to carry the ball 45 times. They understand how hard it is in this conference and how physical it is for a running back. If one would have been selfish it could have crumbled, but they handled it perfectly. It is just their nature, their attitude."

Williams and Brown both earned All-SEC honors and Williams made several All-America teams.

Carnell Williams runs at Saturday's practice.

"We knew coming back for our senior years we were going to be sharing the ball," said Williams, who wore Tre Smith's jersey No. 22 for his final practice. "We knew that we probably wouldn't be candidates for the Heisman or All-American team. We knew we had to put our individual goals aside and go out and play for the team. We knew if we played that way we could have a great year as a team."

Brown said he and Williams and other seniors have been talking about this being the end of the line for their college careers. "We have one more task in front of us and we are excited about it," he said. "We were talking about that at practice today about this being the last game for us as seniors. It is important for us to play well."

Williams noted that the stage is set for the Tigers to play well when they and Virginia Tech kick off at 7 p.m. on Monday in a game that will be televised by ABC.

"There is no doubt we are ready to play," the Cadillac said. "This week has been so much fun. Seeing what New Orleans to offer has been great. It has been fun to practice in the Superdome. We are totally focused and prepared for Virginia Tech. I think it is going to be a great game on Monday night.

"When I go out there to play in the bowl game there is no doubt that I will be thinking about it being my last game for Auburn," Williams added. "I still remember when I was getting recruited and I was a little freshman coming in--one of the new kids on the block. I am going to be through with college football after this game."

Ronnie Brown runs a play in Saturday's practice.

A year ago after the Tigers defeated Wisconsin in a bowl game, there was a big question about whether or not Williams or Brown would be back for their senior seasons or if they would opt for the NFL draft.

Williams noted, "We both felt like it was best for each of us to stay in school even though we had everybody in the world telling us, ‘If Carnell leaves, Ronnie should stay and if Ronnie stays Carnell should stay. We had everybody pulling and yanking on us.' We knew it could work playing together as seniors if we got the right person in." Williams said that new offensive coordinator Al Borges figured out how to do just that.

Brown says that Borges will need to call a strong game on Monday and the Tigers will need to be strong against a Virginia Tech team that has won eight straight games. "They are good on defense," Brown said. "They make a lot of plays. They move around well. They are pretty fast.

"It is very important to win this game," Brown added. "We have established a lot and accomplished a lot. There is no need to slack off now. We have an opportunity to do something great. We have a chance to have an undefeated season. We have a chance to win the Sugar Bowl. If we do that it would make us 13-0, which is something that no Auburn team has ever done."

Kicker John Vaughn catches a pass at Saturday's practice.

Tuberville had a 1 a.m. curfew for his team on New Year's Eve, but will be getting the players in early on Saturday night for a team meeting. The Auburn coach said he believes the Tigers will make a big effort to bring their A-game to the Superdome on Monday night despite it being unlikely that anything they do vs. Virginia Tech will jump the Tigers from third to first in the major polls.

"We have 18 seniors and this is a special group," Tuberville said. "They have tried so hard prepare for games this season and this game has been no different. I have heard them talk to the young guys that it is now time to get off your feet and concentrate. You would like to say that they are all like this, but they don't get much better than this group of seniors."

The Tigers had a light workout at the Superdome rehearsing the game plan for Monday night's Nokia Sugar Bowl game vs. Virginia Tech, which worked out in the Superdome following the Tigers. Tech had been working out at Tulane's outdoor practice field.

"We have had a good week of preparations," said Tuberville, who added, " said. "We are starting to get more focused. They guys are excited practice is over. It has been a good week, we had a lot of fun. Now it is getting close to game so we have got to get more focused on what we are doing."

"This is the most consistent team I have been around," Tuberville added. "We haven't really had a bad game. We have had some bad plays, and maybe a bad quarter, but when all was said and done we played a good football game. It is going take a good game Monday night. Virginia Tech has a good team. They understand how difficult it is going to be. They know even if we play good we may not win this game. We have to be totally focused and get ready to try to make plays and try to play one of our best games of the year."

Practice Notes: The night before the game, the top 70 players will check out of their downtown New Orleans hotel for a quieter location where they can be undisturbed for their final pre-game preparations. Tuberville said 125 players made the trip to New Orleans...Noseguard Tommy Jackson said the Tigers have had fun in New Orleans...Safety Will Herring said the Tigers aren't dwelling on the subject, but noted that his team still has hope it can be voted No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.

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