The sophomore gave the Tigers a boost and almost carried them to a victory in The Swamp with 163 yards rushing on 22 carries and two touchdowns and added a touchdown reception of 54 yards for good measure. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said he was proud of the effort he received from the shifty Brown against the Gators.
"You could tell how much improved Ronnie is," Tuberville said following the 30-23 overtime loss. "He hasn't had an opportunity this year and when he got that opportunity he made the most of it with 163 yards in about three quarters. Our offensive line blocked well, too. It was a team effort."
Brown goes over the top for his second touchdown of the night against Florida.
After getting off to a miserable start in the first quarter when they were outgained by Florida 144-7 in total yards, the Tigers looked like they would continue a trend of Auburn teams of late in Gainesville of getting beaten soundly. When Williams went down with an injury that seemed even more likely, especially with quarterback Daniel Cobb struggling to get the offense jump-started. But Brown said he knew he had to get the job done and was ready for the challenge.
"When I saw Carnell go down, he's a great player and a great running back," Brown noted. "I knew that if we were going to have a chance I would have to step up. That's all I was trying to do. When I got the ball tonight I was just thinking ‘just run.' I have to give my offensive line all the credit. They came off the ball real hard. They get all the credit."
Brown powers through tacklers Saturday night. He ran like a man possessed and energized his Tiger teammates.
What Brown's performance did for the Tigers can't be measured in just yardage and points. His performance lifted an entire team that felt deflated after seeing their very own Mr. Dependable go down with an injury. It wasn't just the offense that got the energy, senior Rashaud Walker said the entire team fed off of Brown's energy Saturday night.
"Everybody knew how important Carnell is to this team and when he went down a lot of players and Auburn fans watching knew it was going to be tough," Walker said. "But Ronnie Brown came in and stepped up and did a fantastic job. Jason Campbell came in for Cobb and did a fantastic job. It just shows how good this team is. We just have to keep working and practicing."
One offensive veteran that saw a lot to like in Brown's performance was senior receiver Marcel Willis. With just one catch for 13 yards in the game, he spent most of his time blocking downfield for Brown and had several key blocks on long runs Saturday night.
"Ronnie stepped up," Willis said. "I know everybody probably had a sad look when Carnell was laying down there and we were thinking, ‘Oh no.' But Ronnie came in there, stepped up and had a great game. He picked up right where Carnell would have left off."
The senior said that Campbell did some good things for the offense as well. With Cobb just 4-12 in the game for 91 yards, the coaching staff decided during the third quarter to give the sophomore a shot and he responded. Finishing the game 5-7 for 95 yards and one touchdown through the air while adding 13 yards on the ground, Willis said Campell made the Gators respect his running ability and that helped slow down their pass rush.
"He brought a lot of mobility," Willis noted. "We needed that mobility that he brought to scramble around and get away from some pressure. We needed him to move around in the pocket a little bit, which he did."
The Tigers now are forced to regroup following the heartbreak of Saturday's loss. Despite the pain following the game, Walker said the Tigers found out a lot about themselves against the Gators this time around.
"We got a lot of positives out of this loss," Walker said. "We started off slow, but I saw a lot of young guys grow up. We saw how good our team really is. Cadillac went down. He's a big part of this team and Ronnie came in and played good. Jason Campbell came in and played good. It just shows how good our team is and if we keep working we can be successful this season. This game just showed a lot about the character of the team, the coaches, the whole program because we knew it was going to be tough since we beat them last year. We showed a lot of character and a lot of guts. As long as we keep working we'll be alright."