Auburn, Ala.–For Jonathan Palmer it was the chance of a lifetime, or what has seemed like a lifetime for the Auburn junior offensive lineman. A highly-recruited player from the same high school as Tiger All-American Marcus McNeill, Palmer has been unable to break into the starting lineup for Auburn until Saturday's 63-3 win over Ball State.
Starting in place of injured starter Timmy Duckworth, who was held out after spraining his knee in practice, Palmer played a big part in Auburn's huge rushing day. After struggling the first two games on the ground, the Tigers rushed for 390 yards on just 35 carries. That's something that makes an offensive lineman like Palmer smile.
"Oh yeah, we had to set the tone because the first couple of games we passed the ball a little too much and Coach (Al) Borges said we have got to get back to Auburn football," Palmer said. "That is a balanced attack. So, we just went out there and we made it our goal just to run the ball."
Palmer gets out in front of a touchdown run by Kenny Irons.
Facing a defense that has been porous against both the run and the pass this season, Palmer said it was important for the offense to come out and set the tone against a team they were more physical than.
"Yeah, coming into the game the coaches said, Coach Borges was telling us Friday night about how these kind of games catapult the rest of the season," Palmer said. "And the biggest thing is to go out there are execute because if we don't score almost every drive we touch the ball we don't get better. So, we took that into the game and we had that mindset that we need to go in there and execute."
Execution is what it was from beginning to end. Auburn dominated the line of scrimmage and scored a touchdown on every possession in the game. Nine times the Tigers got the ball and nine times the drive ended in a touchdown. Palmer said it doesn't get any better than that for an offense.
"Yeah, we know we are capable of doing it, but we have just got to go out there and do it," Palmer said. "So, when we actually go out there and do it, it kind of shows everybody that we can do it. Now the coaches are going to be expecting us to do it every weekend."
Something that was noticeable on Saturday was a change in Auburn's bench as the offense got the entire group together each time they came off the field on the North end of the bench while the defense used the South end. When that happened against Ball State the running backs and especially Kenny Irons came by and thanked the offensive line each time for throwing good blocks on the drives. That's something that Palmer said really is important for an offensive lineman to hear from his teammates.
"Yeah, it is always important," Palmer said. "Everybody knows in the back of their head that if it wasn't for the offensive linebut we don't get the credit. It feels good when a running backbecause he is always, Kenny, in the huddle he is always saying good job, good job, that is all he says. So, it makes you want to block."
Auburn now has another shot to fine tune the offense before conference play gets back underway against South Carolina. Next weekend the Tigers face I-AA powerhouse Western Kentucky at Jordan-Hare Stadium for homecoming. While it is a time for celebration the campus, Palmer said it's going to be another chance for the offensive line to prove they've got what it takes to push Auburn's offense a long way in 2005.
This season everybody is saying that the offensive line is the backbone of the team and the last couple of years we had great running backs," Palmer said. "I am not taking anything away from these guys, but they haven't established themselves yet. We have got to come out there and we have got to show everybody that we are going to dominate the game, the offensive line. So, that is the only waywe have got to do it with fundamentals at full speed. So, that is why we are up here every morning watching film and we are the first one at the practices doing little things and the last ones off. We have got to try and get everything right."