Youth Movement Sparks Running Game

Auburn started four freshmen on offense and played several others, but the running game was as good as it had been all season in the victory over New Mexico State.

Auburn, Ala.--Having two 100-yard running backs for the first time since Kenny Irons and Tristan Davis did so at Kentucky in 2005 is a good sign. It's even better when you consider that is was done by sophomore and freshman running backs behind three true freshmen and two juniors on the offensive line.

Right tackle Lee Ziemba had started the first three games of the season for the Tigers. However, left tackle Ryan Pugh and right guard Chaz Ramsey saw their first collegiate playing time in starting roles in the 55-20 victory over New Mexico State.

"The one thing I'll say, those kids are tough kids," Borges says of the new faces up front. "They are not afraid, they come off the football and they are going to do nothing but get better. (Offensive line) Coach (Hugh) Nall will shore up some techniques and make sure our targeting is straight. You'll see them get better and better every single game because they want to get better."

The Tigers needed some sort of change after what they did offensively in the first three games was offensive. Pugh played left tackle at Hoover High School, but was projected to be the center of the future at Auburn. Ramsey, from Madison, Miss., Central High School, has experience at every line position. He started in place of a dinged up Mike Berry while Pugh took over for injured and ineffective King Dunlap.

"They did a great job," says tailback Mario Fannin, who rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. "We put them in there at the beginning of practice this week. They stepped it up each day, worked hard every day and they played awesome in the game."


Fannin leaps for the end zone.

Fannin is a freshman who was actually a quarterback at Lovejoy, Ga., High School. Making the change to running back at the collegiate level, Fannin had some troubles holding onto the ball in his first two games at the position in college. However, he was fumble-free against the Aggies after carrying around a football, "high and tight," all week.

"Just trying to make sure I didn't make the same mistake this game," he jokes. "Every day I carried the football around. Some teachers asked me what I was doing. Some of them watched the game and they understood."

The big play that pushed him over the century mark was late in the fourth quarter after Ben Tate had already grinded away 21 times for 111 yards. Fannin ran off the left side of the line and raced 67 yards to put the punctuation mark on the rebound victory for 2-2 Auburn.

"The line did a great job, they pulled around and made a big hit on some guys," Fannin says of his long TD. "The hole was there and I just ran."

That run gave Fannin his first 100-yard collegiate rushing performance. For Tate, it was his third after running for 114 against Buffalo and 156 against Tulane last season. For the game Auburn finished with 422 yards with 229 coming on the ground and 193 in the air. The Tigers' previous high for yardage this season was 323 against Mississippi State. It was also the first time in nine games that Auburn has tallied more than 400 yards total offense.


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