McNeill, Offensive Line Pancake Pigs

Marcus McNeill discusses the Tigers' 34-17 win over Arkansas on Saturday night.

Fayetteville, Ark.--The Auburn offensive line had heard the talk for the last two weeks about how physical the Arkansas Razorbacks are in the trenches. Saturday night in Fayetteville, the Hogs got a free lesson on how to run the football up the gut in Auburn's 34-17 victory.

"I probably five or six pancakes," says Auburn offensive tackle Marcus McNeill. "I heard Duck (guard Tim Duckworth) might be the king of pancakes tonight. He had a lot of them today. We've got a chant, 'One cake, two cake, red cake, blue cake.' You've got to say it every time you pancake somebody and he was chanting it quite often."

McNeill is jubilant as the Tigers pound the Razorbacks.

Auburn offensive linemen McNeill, Duckworth, Troy Reddick, Ben Grubbs and Joe Cope whipped the Razorbacks defensive linemen and paved the way for 233 yards rushing. Arkansas, who was ranked third in the nation with an average of 286.4 yards per game on the ground entering the contest, was held to 148, most of which came in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided.

"We got a chance today to really prove what we can do as an offensive line," McNeill adds. "We always knew we had the potential to line up with anybody and just play smashmouth football."

Auburn starting tailback Brad Lester gained 33 yards on seven carries before pulling his groin late in the first quarter. Backup Kenny Irons stepped in and ran for 182 yards on 33 carries, the most yards by a Tiger back since Carnell Williams' 204 yards against Alabama in 2003.

"That was Coach Nall all day," McNeill says. "That's what we call Nall ball. It's a lot of fun especially when it's one group of offensive linemen and you see them switching in and out defensive linemen, three different defensive ends and things like that. We were still pounding the ball with their fresh legs. That's when you give a lot of credit to your strength and conditioning coach (Kevin Yoxall)."

It took the Tigers until their sixth possession to get things click on all cylinders offensively. The Razorbacks used a heavy barrage of blitzes which held Auburn to three points on its first five possessions.

Trailing 10-6 at halftime offensive coordinator Al Borges cut back some of the playbook and let his lineman pound the Hogs, and they scored a touchdown on all of their second half possessions before the clock hit double zeros on the last drive.

"We should have picked it up a lot earlier," McNeill says. "We knew they were going to be playing six feet off the ground and that's the way they were playing with all of those blitzes and things like that.

"We really cut a lot of other things out of our offense and just focus on fewer running plays," he adds. "We were able to run the ball more efficiently because we weren't having to see different schemes of the defense against different plays. It was the same play and they were in the same defensive play every time and we really got used to it and pounded them."

Auburn's 1-2-3 punch of Lester, Irons and Tre Smith ran for 236 yards combined on the night, mostly because of the dominance of the O-line which pushed Arkansas defenders off the line often as far as seven or eight yards. Tackles McNeill and Reddick, both who weigh in the 330-pound range, got to show their athletic ability by pulling as the lead blocker on several plays and destroyed opposing linebackers and defensive backs.

"That's to our advantage for us to be that fast and that athletic with our size," McNeill notes. "You have to use it to our advantage and Coach Borges did a great job of it today.

"It's always a lot of fun to pull," he adds. "I like to showcase my speed. I'm the fastest O-lineman we've got and you can quote me on that. I can beat any one of them in a 40-yard dash. Whenever I get a chance to show my speed and pull around and hit somebody, I pretty much get a smile on my face and get ready to go."

McNeill took to heart some comments made by Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring earlier in the week about Auburn playing a "Christmas schedule," which gave him added inspiration Saturday night as the Tigers improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play.

"I feel no coaches should make comments like that in the SEC," he says of Herring, who was Auburn's linebacker coach from 1986-1991. "You go against somebody like that in a news press like that and get their players amped up like that, that's crazy. That's why we try to keep what we say to a minimum because you don't want to give the other team press to fuel their fire."

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