Auburn finally discovers winning formula

Updated: October 5, 2003, 8:10 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Don't look now, but all of a sudden Auburn is riding a three-game winning streak, running wild on offense and making clutch plays on defense.

In other words, the Tigers (3-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) are actually displaying the capabilities that made them preseason favorites to win the league.

They beat then-No. 7 Tennessee 28-21 Saturday night after a pair of blowout victories against overmatched foes. Auburn is playing with a newfound confidence and a revived running game entering another tough game at Arkansas (4-0, 1-0), which supplanted the Volunteers as the nation's seventh-ranked team.

"We're not as good as we could be," coach Tommy Tuberville said Sunday. "We're getting better, but our players are starting to get a lot more confidence in what we're doing and how we're doing it.

"Our team has had a tremendous attitude the whole time. When you have a good attitude and your work ethic's been real good, then you've got a chance to improve."

Auburn still hasn't reappeared in the national rankings, which actually might be a good omen. The Tigers were 0-20-1 from 1972 to 2000 as an unranked team playing a Top 10 opponent but have won four straight in that scenario.

The Tigers also have rushed for 250-plus yards in two straight games for the first time in eight years. Quarterback Jason Campbell has been a huge beneficiary, completing 35 of 50 passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games.

"Our coaches have done a better job of mixing up what we're doing and how we're doing it," Tuberville said. "But it's all about practicing. Our guys have really practiced hard.

"We've gotten better at blocking on the offensive line. Our running backs look like they're running harder to me. But then again, it's hard to run if you don't have a hole."

Carnell Williams rushed for 185 yards against the Volunteers, nearly twice what they had been allowing per game.

The defense gave up Casey Clausen's 355 yards passing, but had five sacks and allowed only four yards rushing. Plus, Carlos Rogers came up with a clutch interception to end the Vols' final chance in the fourth quarter.

"I thought our offensive coaches did a great job with the game plan," Tuberville said. "We really mixed it up. Defensively, we had a great game plan, we just kind of got away from it in the second half.

"I thought we could have been a lot better tackling-wise and more consistent with our pass rush. We just kind of lost our pass rush in the fourth quarter."

TIGER TAILS:@ Williams and tackle Mark Pera shared offensive player of the week honors for Auburn. Carlos Rogers earned defensive honors while punter Kody Bliss was the top special teams player ... Rogers had surgery to repair a broken left thumb on Sunday but expects to play this week. Tailback Ronnie Brown strained a hamstring against the Vols but could have returned if needed.

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