Tate Running Up The Record Books

Auburn senior running back Ben Tate talks about his season and playing in this offense.

Auburn, Ala.--Entering the 2009 season many critics might have scoffed at Ben Tate's goal of 1,200 rushing yards for the year. After all the senior had yet to top 1,000 yards in any of his first three seasons and rushed for just 664 yards in 2008. Tate had seen enough of the new offense under the direction of Gus Malzahn to know that it was very possible.

Fast forward a few months and Tate is on the verge of achieving his goals set back in August. In nine games Tate has carried the ball 193 times for 1,067 yards and six touchdowns as the Tigers are pounding out 224.2 yards per game on the ground. While the offense is thought of as a high octane attack and a spread offense, Tate said it's definitely running back friendly as he's showing this season.

"I definitely think this offense is suited for running backs like myself and Mario (Fannin), big running backs," Tate said. "Coach (Malzahn) likes to pound it. He also has some plays for fast guys too. I think this is a good offense for an SEC-type back."

Led by Tate's powerful running this season, the Tigers are 6-3 on the year and take on Furman this weekend for homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Having already surpassed last season's win total, Tate said while things aren't perfect the Tigers have made some improvements and are looking forward to a strong finish.

"I'm definitely pleased with how our season is going," Tate said. "I wish we had won a few more games, but we can't really complain. We're in a good situation. We can still finish with a pretty good record. We've got two big teams left on the schedule in Georgia and Alabama. If we can win those games the season would be pretty complete."

For Tate a strong finish to the season would put him in some very elite company as far as Auburn running backs go. Currently he has 608 carries in his career for 3,026 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Last Saturday he became just the fifth back in Auburn history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark and needs 342 yards to pass Joe Cribbs for fourth place on the all-time list.

Much of his assault on the record books has come this season as the Tigers have turned to him to be the workhorse on offense. He has responded in a big way with six 100-yard rushing games including 157 against Mississippi State, 128 against Tennessee, 184 at Arkansas, 132 against Kentucky and 144 last week in a win over Ole Miss. Tate said it's all about having the chance to make things happen in an offense designed to do just that.

"To put up numbers like I'm doing this year you also have to have opportunities," Tate said. "Coach Malzahn and Coach (Gene) Chizik have definitely given me the opportunity to showcase what I can do. Even if you have talent you have to be able to showcase it and the coaches are letting me do that this year."

Last weekend the Tigers faced one of the top defenses in the SEC with Ole Miss in town. Coming off three consecutive losses in which the offense struggled to get things going, Auburn's offensive players talked about making one play to get things back on track. Saturday that was a 42-yard catch by Terrell Zachery that set up Auburn's first touchdown. After that it was all a downhill race to the finish for the Tigers in the win, setting the stage for perhaps a big finish to the 2009 season.

"Our confidence has just been hanging on," Tate said. "When we hit those plays it shot back through the roof again. T-Zach got us going. He said he was going to do it.

"It felt great to get the spark back on offense and get clicking again," Tate added. "We put up 14 or 21 points in the third quarter. Offensively it was good to get back on track."

Tate and the Tigers return to action at 12:30 p.m. Saturday for their Homecoming game vs. Furman.

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