Looking For a Better Start and Finish

Auburn, Ala.--A bad start combined with key mental mistakes resulted in a season-opening loss to Georgia Tech, but Travis Williams and the rest of the Auburn defense look to bounce back in the conference opener against Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium at 11:30 a.m. CST on Saturday.

"We've watched the film and sometimes we had 10 guys doing one thing and sometimes we had seven," Williams says of the 23-14 loss to the Yellow Jackets. "We've got to always have 11 and that's our goal for this week is to have all 11 executing the defense. The first game is won or lost with mistakes. Georgia Tech didn't make a lot of mistakes and that's big for the first game.

"It's a loss, but we've got 11 or 12 more games," he adds. "We know we have got to bounce back. It was a non-conference game, but if you are a competitor you always hate losing. It will hurt even worse if you lose this next one. Now we are facing a team that is 1-0 and we are 0-1."

A slow start defensively was one major factor in the loss in which the Tigers must improve as they look to win their 11th consecutive conference game dating back to 2003. If the Tigers can jump on the Bulldogs early, they should be good shape as State has lost its last 18 games when trailing at halftime and its last 20 when trailing heading into the fourth quarter.

For Auburn to build an early lead Williams says the Tigers must limit mistakes and stop Bulldog tailback Jerious Norwood, who rushed for 123 yards on 16 carries in Saturday's 38-6 win over Murray State.

"Every week our main objective is to stop the run and make them pass," Williams says. "We have got to be physical and stop the run--this is the SEC. They have got a big offensive line and a real good running back. They will try to run so we have got to be ready to stop it.

"Norwood is a good player," he adds. "I think he is underrated. A guy like that always has to try to prove that he is the top guy, so you have got to be ready for a guy like that. That is kind of how I am--you have always got to prove yourself and he is one of those guys that can sneak up on you. We have just got to be ready."

Travis Williams earned All-SEC honors as a junior.

Mississippi State quarterback Omarr Conner started the season on the right foot against the Racers by completing 17-24 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Williams says that the Tigers have been preparing for Conner much like they did against Tech quarterback Reggie Ball.

"They both have got athletic quarterbacks and they try to get them out of the pocket to use their athletic ability," he says. "I think the Mississippi State quarterback is a better passer. We have got to be ready for the run or pass and everybody has got to do their job."

Junior Omarr Conner leads the Mississippi State offense.

The series between the Tigers and Bulldogs has been an odd of one late. Auburn won four consecutive meetings from 1993-1996. Mississippi State won four straight from 1997-2000, and now Auburn is on a four-game winning streak heading into Saturday's contest. The Tigers have won the last three by 28 points or more.

"Last year it was kind of one-sided and it is hard to do that twice," Williams says. "That team is going to be ready. They are coming off a win so they have got a lot of momentum. It doesn't matter who they played--a win is a win.

"It's like night and day," he adds about State's improvements since the contest early last season. "A lot of folks think that we are just going to run them over and they are wrong. It's going to be a big SEC battle and the best team will win."


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