Freshman Back Could See Expanded Duty

Freshman tailback Ben Tate discusses Auburn's Cotton Bowl matchup vs. Nebraska.

Dallas, Tex.--With starting tailback Kenny Irons still not back to full speed and backup Brad Lester suspended for the bowl game, freshman Ben Tate could see an expanded role on New Year's Day in the Cotton Bowl.

Tate has played eight games this year and has rushed for 369 yards and three touchdowns with an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Most of his playing time has been when the Tigers have games under control. That could change on Monday when the Tigers take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

"Hopefully, I will get to show the coaches what I can do," Tate says. "This is my opportunity. When opportunity comes, you have got to step up."

Auburn will bring a 10-2 record into the Cotton Bowl vs. the 9-4 Cornhuskers, who will be trying to improve their all-time record to 4-0 vs. the Tigers.

Tate, who flew into Dallas on Tuesday after spending Christmas with his family in Maryland, says he is looking forward to the bowl experience.

Among the activities for the players is a chance to attend an NFL game on Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys play the Detroit Lions. Tate says he is particularly excited about that and notes, "I have visited the Cowboys' stadium, but I have never been to a game there.

"I am also looking forward to getting out and seeing Dallas," he notes. "This is the start of next year and I am looking forward to getting off to a good start."

Ben Tate runs the football as a freshman.

At this time last year, Tate was preparing to begin his college experience after taking early graduation from high school as the all-time leading rusher in his state's history. He was able to participate in winter workouts and spring training at Auburn. The tailback says that has helped him develop as football player.

"I have definitely gotten better," he says of his first year on campus. "I have matured a lot and learned to do the little things right like just noticing the posture of a linebacker and being able to know if he is going to blitz...just little things you never thought about before being here in the spring. Then working all of the way through fall camp made me a lot better."

Tate says he is making the adjustment to college in the classroom, too. "My first semester was a little rough, but the second semester was much better," he says.

While many college football players grew up watching bowl games for countless hours during the holiday season, Tate wasn't one of those guys. When it was time to turn on the television to check out football, he was mainly interested in watching highlight videos of great backs in action like Barry Sanders and others. He hopes to use some of those moves he watched when the Tigers look for their 11th victory on Monday.

Although he didn't participate in last year's 24-10 Auburn bowl loss to Wisconsin, Tate notes he is keenly aware of what happened. "I think the coaches are hammering it to us not to get embarrassed again," he says. "I think the practices have been pretty intense and everybody is working at a pretty good pace. With all of those seniors, and with our team wanting to start off on the right foot for next season, we don't want to embarrass the program again."

Kickoff time for the Cotton Bowl is set for 10:40 a.m. on New Year's Day with television coverage by Fox Sports.


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