Offense Hoping To Take Charge

Auburn faces a Penn State defense determined to stop the run.

Orlando, Fla.--While Penn State's rushing offense is getting much of the attention in pre-game talk for the Capital One Bowl, the key to the New Year's Day game just may be how well Auburn's offense can move the ball on the ground against the Nittany Lions.

Averaging 204 yards per game on the ground with 30 rushing touchdowns this season, the Tigers will face one of the top defensive lines in the country. If the Tigers hope to win the game they will have to do what they have done all season--run the ball early and often.

"I think that's going to be a real big key to our success if we happen to come out and are able to move the ball on the ground," sophomore tailback Ronnie Brown said. "That will open up some things for our passing game and we'll be a little bit more stable if we can establish the running game early."

Ronnie Brown

Brown's health along with that of fullback Brandon Johnson could have a huge impact on the game. After sitting out the Alabama game because of sprained ankles, both returned to practice in limited roles when the team practiced in Auburn and have been looking good since the team convened for practices in Orlando. Rushing for a team-leading 824 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Brown's presence at full speed would be a big boost for the Tigers. He said that he feels like he'll be ready to go for the 1 p.m. EST kickoff.

"I came out Thursday and had a pretty good practice," Brown said. "Saturday was a whole lot better. I really wasn't too sore. I'm just about 100 percent. I'm right at the point of being able to move and do some of the things I was able to do before."

The Tigers will face a defense led by two pro prospects up front in tackle Jimmy Kennedy and end Michael Haynes. Giving up just over 100 yards rushing per game, the Nittany Lions will be a tough test for Auburn, but Haynes said he's been impressed by what he's seen of Auburn on film.

Jason Campbell

"I think number 22 (Tre Smith) is real talented by watching him on film," Haynes said. "He's very quick and he's the type of person that will try to get outside and try to get the corner on you. I think me being a defensive end, my job will definitely be to hold that edge. The quarterback (Jason Campbell) is extremely efficient on play-action passes."

For Jason Campbell the challenge is going to be making plays in the passing game against Penn State. If there is one chink in the armor of the Nittany Lions it's against the pass. Giving up just over 200 yards per game through the air, Penn State could be the coming out party for Campbell through the air, but he says it's going to be tough because of the push they get up front.

Jason Campbell is shown at bowl practice with the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium in the background.

"Their defensive line is very good," Campbell said. "They are strong and they are big. The guys up front have good movement. It's a key for us to come off the ball hard because of the size of their defensive line. It's kind of hard to compare them to anyone else because Kennedy and a couple of other guys they have up front are real big. The guys have good movement. They are kind of like Georgia a little bit."

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on New Year's Day and can be seen on ABC. Auburn enters with a record of 8-4 while Penn State comes in at 9-3.

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