Auburn Tigers up and running again

Updated: October 5, 2003, 2:13 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Billed as a showcase for star tailbacks and a matchup between an underachiever and an unbeaten, it became Carnell Williams versus Casey Clausen.

Williams and the Auburn Tigers won, overpowering Clausen and No. 13 Tennessee 28-21 Saturday night and finally looking worthy of that preseason No. 6 ranking. They go to No. 8 Arkansas Saturday at 11:30 a.m. CST.

"I think we've got one of the best backfields in the nation, and our (offensive) line did a good job giving them the opportunity," Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell said.

Not so for the Vols, who gained just four yards on the ground and passed three times as often as they ran.

"That was our goal, to stop the run, and make them throw it," Auburn defensive back Kevin Hobbs said. "I really didn't think they were just going to completely forget about the run."

The Volunteers (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) didn't forget to run, but figured their best chance against one of the nation's top defenses rested on Clausen's arm.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, the result was that Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis were nonfactors -- and so was the running game. The duo carried nine times for a combined 14 yards, numbers that dearly cost a team that had been winning tight games but dominating no one.

Tennessee had just 16 carries, and five of those came on five sacks.

Williams broke the 100-yard mark for the first time this season, churning out 185 yards on 36 carries. Ronnie Brown, whom the coaches call a co-starter, had 65 yards on 12 runs.

"There is no doubt that they have some of the best running backs in the country," Tennessee defensive end Constantine Ritzman said.

It was a performance Auburn fans had been expecting all along, and one the Tigers are hoping to duplicate in games at Arkansas and LSU in the next three weeks.

"From here on out, I think we're going to show the country we are one of the best teams in the country," Williams said.

The Tigers have rushed for 200-plus yards in each of their last three games after totaling just 83 yards on the ground in losses to Southern California and Georgia Tech to start the season. Of course, that kind of production in lopsided wins over Vanderbilt and Division I-AA Western Kentucky didn't do nearly as much convince the skeptics as this one.

Even the once-maligned offensive line has gained some respect.

"We played so great tonight," guard Monreko Crittenden said. "This is really big for our confidence. We needed to go out and beat a top ranked team."

Williams was appreciative.

"Anytime a running back can run 4-5 yards without getting touched, that goes out to the offensive line," he said.

The Tigers didn't bother hiding their intentions of relying on run, handing it to Williams five times for 40 yards on their opening drive.Brown covered the final 17 yards on two carries and scored on a 6-yarder.

Tennessee, meanwhile, had five straight pass plays on its opening drive, completing only two while the Tigers got one of their five sacks.

Clausen nearly made the strategy pay off, completing 30 of 47 passes for 355 yards in one of his best career outings. He threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes but was intercepted by Carlos Rogers to snuff out the final drive.

Vols linebacker Robert Peace thinks the teams could meet again -- in the SEC championship game.

"They were bigger and more physical than us (Saturday night)," Peace said. "We just have to spend the rest of the season taking care of business. If we do, we could have a rematch."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index