Slowing Down Running Game A Key For Tigers

Auburn defensive end Stanley McClover talks about Virginia Tech's running game and what Auburn has to do to slow it down.

New Orleans, La.–-While Auburn's Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown will get much of the attention at running back Monday night, Virginia Tech has a strong pair of backs and a strong running quarterback that could prove to give the Tigers fits in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

Freshman Mike Imoh burst onto the scene this season for the Hokies and provided the home run punch the team needed at running back to go along with the bruising running of Cedric Humes. Imoh leads the team in rushing with 704 yards and six touchdowns this season while Humes has 595 yards and five touchdowns. Auburn sophomore defensive end Stanley McClover says that the defense has a tough task in slowing down Virginia Tech's running game.

"They're pretty good running backs," McClover says. "You have to track them down. We've faced good running backs every game so it's nothing new for us. We just have to get them on the ground. Those little running backs like that give you the most problems. I would rather tackle a big running back than a little one. They're going to give you a lot of problems and we're going to keep that in mind with Imoh."

Hokie running back Mike Imoh.

Adding another aspect to the running game is quarterback Bryan Randall. The senior rushed for 466 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season and is capable of taking one this distance at any time. He's most dangerous when scrambling from the pocket, a notion that McClover says Auburn is very aware of.

"In the kind of defense that we run it's a gap," McClover says. "As long as we keep everybody in our gaps and playing to their responsibilities it's going to be hard for him to run that ball and find a lane to run it. The minute we start jumping out of our gaps and playing our own defense that's when he can be dangerous. This game is mostly mental. Everybody has to be mentally in it and make sure we make Randall beat us with his arm.

"Everybody is going to play normal, but there is a certain defense we're going to be in that gives us an opportunity to keep him inside the pocket," McClover adds. "We just have to rush and play our same defense, but be knowledgeable that he can run the ball. We play a gap defense so if everybody plays their gaps and their responsibilities he can't run the ball. That's as simple as it gets. Just play your responsibilities. It doesn't get too difficult."

For Auburn the game is simple, stop the run and you've given yourself a great chance to win the game. That is the attitude the Tigers always take under defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and the philosophy has worked to the tune of 14 straight wins. McClover says that making Randall become one-dimensional would be a big key for the Tigers Monday night.

"They're very good all around," McClover says. "We just know they're very dangerous on the ground. We just want to take that one weapon away from him and make him go to the air. They have good receivers and a good offense. You can't let them kill you with all the weapons, you have to take their weapons from them.

"Our attitude the whole year is to not let anybody run the ball on us and force you to pass," McClover adds. "Most games we've been meeting our goals. We're not cocky or anything like that, but we go in letting you know that you're going to have to work for what you get on this defense. We have no selfish players. Everybody plays for the defense. Nobody plays their own defense. We share the wealth. Everybody tries to get in where they fit in."

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