Brown Leads Tigers Into Saturday's Game

Linebacker Mark Brown and Coach Tommy Tuberville talk about this week's game and Thursday's practice.

Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn's seniors, this week's game is the culmination of a final regular season filled with ups-and-downs emotionally and physically. With big wins and painful losses, including Saturday's heartbreaker to Georgia in the last minute, they have a final chance to help right things this season with a victory over archrival Alabama Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

One of the players ready to do his part is linebacker Mark Brown. The emotional leader of a defense that has improved weekly since being torched at home by Arkansas, he said this week that last year's loss at home to the Crimson Tide has been on the minds of the players since last November.

"It carried over a lot," Brown said. "We think about it every day. We think about Alabama all of the time. Especially when you come to Auburn, you are always reminded of it. Especially when you lose, you think about it even more. It's been on our mind."

Mark Brown

Playing for the chance to control their destiny in the race for Atlanta, the Tigers couldn't hold a lead against Georgia Saturday despite numerous chances on both offense and defense to put the game away. While the game will always be one that the players think back to with disappointment, Brown said they have to forget about everything this week except for Alabama.

"It's very disappointing, but we have got to forget about that loss and play for this week," Brown noted. "You can't keep thinking about what happened yesterday, you have got to move forward."

Facing perhaps the their toughest challenge of the season this week in an Alabama team that leads the SEC in both total offense and defense, Brown said that coming back from the Georgia loss hasn't been too difficult knowing what was ahead of them.

"We've got to," Brown said when asked if this team could rebound from last week. "We've got to refocus, and get all the young guys back into the swing of things. We don't want to lose to Alabama, so we've got to refocus. We don't have a choice."

Practicing for just under two hours inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Auburn Tigers put the finishing touches on learning the game plan for Saturday's game against Alabama. Working on all aspects of the game but paying particular attention to special teams, Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team had a good week of practice and Thursday the team had some good surprises on the practice field.

Running plays and practicing the entire time, tailback Ronnie Brown worked out Thursday with the team and appears closer to being able to play this weekend. While fullback Brandon Johnson was on the field some of the time on the day, Tuberville said he's still doubtful to play against Alabama.

"We had a good practice," Tuberville said. "We got the game plan in. The hay is in the barn. We're ready to go. Ronnie Brown practiced a little bit today and got a little better. We'll see what happens. Brandon is still a little bit behind. He's still very doubtful for the game. Everybody else looks like they're ready to go.

"The kicking game was good. We spent extra time on our kicking game today, which we normally do on Thursday. Other than that there are no surprises. The guys are ready to go."

Making plans to play without Brown this weekend although he is back practicing less than full speed, Tuberville said Thursday he's still not sure if the sophomore will see any action this week. Facing an Alabama defense that is giving up just 84 yards on the ground, it will be important for Auburn to be able to run the ball this weekend and having Brown available would make a difference.

"I don't know," Tuberville answered when asked if Brown would play. "It's just too hard to tell. I'm not going to put him out there just to say he's playing. He's been to all the meetings and ran some plays. We'll just see what happens."

With Brown not expected to be 100 percent this weekend the bulk of the running game could go to true freshman Tre Smith. A scatback type of player who depends on his speed and cutting ability, Tuberville said he's had a good week of practice preparing for his first shot at being the main man this weekend.

"He's done good," Tuberville said. "I'm sure he's a little bit tired. He's taken a lot of reps. His head has been swimming a little bit putting in a new game plan but I think he's done fine."

The Tigers will travel to Birmingham Friday afternoon after a short walk-through on the Plains. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:40 p.m. and can be seen on CBS.

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