With a 40-carry night for 202 yards and two touchdowns, Williams led the Auburn Tigers (4-1) to a dramatic 37-34 triple overtime win in front of a raucous home crowd. Scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final overtime from eight yards out on a third-and-four play, he continues to amaze not only the fans and opponents, but also his teammates who see him everyday.
Carnell Williams scores his first overtime touchdown.
"We always say, ‘You better stay on your blocks because there's no telling where he's at'," senior receiver Marcel Willis said of Williams. "He could be all over the field. He gets hit once and bounces off and keeps going. The coaches always say, ‘Stay on your blocks, believe in 24 because he can run the ball.'"
A plus of the play of Williams running the ball is a more focused defense on stopping the run. The result means more yards for the outside receivers on bootlegs and play-action fakes. Willis was the beneficiary of just that Saturday night as he caught three passes for 113 yards. Coach Tommy Tuberville said following the game that Williams is definitely the difference maker for the Tiger offense.
"Anytime you have a guy like ‘Cadillac' you have to honor him," Tuberville said. "He gives us a lot of play action passes. They put seven, eight or nine in the box; they even had nine in the box on the last play. We still decided to go ahead and run the football. The thing he does great is he goes inside and comes back out and runs you to the corner."
After a sluggish first half in which they trailed by as many as 17 points, the Tigers began to chip away at the Orangemen in the second stanza behind the running of Williams. With 18 carries for 77 yards at the break he had already begun to tire and that worsened in the second half as he ran the ball 22 more times before the game mercifully ended on his final scamper around left end.
"I got very tight," Williams said. "I kind of felt like I was trying to cramp a little bit, but thank God I didn't. I just kept stretching it and kept praying that I could finish this second half."
Finishing is just what Williams does best as he showed for the seventh and eighth times this season on Saturday night. While the second run will make all the highlights, it was his touchdown run in the second overtime that may have been the most impressive play of the night. Taking the handoff from Jason Campbell, who came on for an injured Daniel Cobb in the second half, Williams outran two Syracuse defenders to the pylon before lowering his head and bulling into the end zone for the touchdown. After laying on the Jordan-Hare turf for a few seconds to regain his balance, Williams jogged back to the Auburn sideline while the crowd roared in his honor.
"Once you get in that red zone a different mindset has to take control," a smiling Williams said. "Once you get in the red zone with the offensive line that we've got and the receivers that we've got, I feel like we can't be stopped. All of us, once we get in the red zone, we always try to pick it up to another level."
Campbell, who finished 7-for-18 for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception, filled in nicely for Cobb after he sprained an ankle on serious hit late in the second quarter. Despite a costly fumble at the one-yard line going in for the tying score in the third quarter, the sophomore still had perhaps his best performance to date in an Auburn uniform. Even with renewed confidence and a big win under his belt, Campbell said following the game that this offense still revolves around number 24 and his talents.
"Carnell is a great player," Campbell said. "He's got a lot of heart. He goes out and competes every day and works hard in practice. It shows off in the games. He has to give his O-Line credit. They did a good job of opening things up for him in the second half. They gave him the option of running inside or outside. He's a tough runner, I'm just glad he didn't cramp up tonight."
Perhaps center Ben Nowland summed up the night best. Blocking for Williams play-in and play-out, the senior said there's always a chance when he has the ball in his hands and that keeps the big guys playing hard up front.
"It makes us work harder," Nowland said. "We can just glance a guy, not even get on him, and that little extra space that we give him he can make something big happen. He did it tonight."