Averaging 419 yards per game and 31.9 points on offense, Auburn will provide a stern test for a defense that has been dominant of late in wins over Florida and South Carolina. Offensive tackle Mark Pera says that this is a game the offense looks forward to playing.
"You want to play number one, the best that you can in anything," Pera notes. "They have the number one defense in the SEC so we're going to have to concentrate and come out and play great."
That could be a problem considering the Tigers will be without their best player for the remainder of the season after tailback Carnell Williams fractured his left fibula and had successful surgery to repair the leg Monday afternoon. But, Pera says this team is a different team than the one that folded last season after Williams was lost with a broken collarbone and the play of Ronnie Brown Saturday night proved just that.
Mark Pera (69) works against true freshman Ben Grubbs (90) in Sunday's practice.
"Last year when he went down we were kind of looking at each other not knowing what to do," Pera says. "This year we know we have guys that are sitting on the sidelines that never get a chance to play that are really good. The perfect example of that was Saturday night when Carnell got hurt. Ronnie came in and we know Ronnie is a good back. We just kept blocking and kept our focus on the game. We know he can do it so when he came out there, it was bad that Carnell went down and I feel for him, but we have to keep going. Ronnie came out and played great."
Pera also talks about the quarterback situation with confidence. Saying that this offense and team believe in Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell both, he says that the Tigers were really impressed and excited about what the sophomore did Saturday night in leading them to a near comeback victory against Florida.
"He's another guy like Ronnie that doesn't get to play as much as he would like," Pera notes of Campbell. "When he comes in he gets the job done. He got the job done against Syracuse and we have confidence in him when he comes out there. He came out Saturday night and played great. He led us up and down the field on them. We're confident in his ability."
Ability alone can sometimes get the job done as true freshman offensive tackle Marcus McNeill is showing. A part-time contributor for much of the season along with redshirt freshman Taylor Bourgeois, McNeill was forced into action as a starter Saturday night because of Bourgeois' continuing shoulder problems. Playing with fire and determination, he did a solid job of protecting the quarterback and in run situations. Pera said it was impressive to do what McNeill did Saturday night.
"I guess we'll look the same because I don't know what Taylor's situation is specifically," Pera says. "I just know that we played great. Marcus came in and played great for us. He just came in and competed real hard and that was all you could ask him to do. A true freshman playing in The Swamp, it's a little scary for anybody."
After studying what they did and why against Florida in Sunday's offensive line meetings, Pera says this team is still shooting for its goal as a unit. While the Tigers play the best defense in the league this Saturday, he says that Auburn's goals don't change no matter who the opponent is.
"We watched the film and as usual there is plenty of stuff to correct," Pera notes. "We didn't play a perfect game, but that's what we're striving for each week."