Auburn's line leads resurgence

Updated: October 21, 2003, 7:54 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Monreko Crittenden knows the drill. The offensive line gets the blame when things are going poorly and the skill players get the credit when things are going well.

There's plenty of credit to go around for No. 17 Auburn's offensive resurgence, with tailback Carnell Williams & Co. piling up yards and touchdowns and accolades.

The Tigers' offensive linemen are leading the way and more than making amends for an abysmal start, when they weren't opening up enough holes or protecting quarterback Jason Campbell.

"If our running backs are doing good, that means we're doing good," said Crittenden, a senior guard.

Coach Tommy Tuberville can rattle off an assortment of reasons why the offense has improved so much. Reason No. 1: The blocking, both at the line and downfield.

"The first few games we were kind of a hit and miss team," Tuberville said Tuesday. "Now, we're starting to put plays back to back and doing well on first down.

"It starts with the offensive line, which every team does, and kind of trickles down from there."

The Tigers (5-2, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) get their biggest offensive test so far Saturday night at No. 9 LSU (6-1, 3-1). LSU has the nation's No. 1 scoring and rushing defense, giving up just 9.9 points and 53 rushing yards per game.

Williams has been averaging nearly that many yards per half in the past three games. He's gained 496 yards during that stretch after failing to crack the 100-yard mark in the first four games.

Williams scored a school-record six touchdowns last weekend against Mississippi State to claim his third straight SEC offensive player of the week award. Plus, Brandon Jacobs gained 182 yards on 31 carries as the Tigers amassed 405 yards on the ground.

In the process, Auburn has gone from the league's worst rushing team to No. 2 behind only Arkansas.

The line has taken as much pleasure in Williams' success as anybody, and he's always quick to give his blockers their due also.

"He knows as well as we do that he wouldn't have gotten that unless he had the offensive line and unless we did the job we did," Crittenden said. "It gives us confidence in what we're doing."

Tuberville said the Mississippi State game was the line's best of the season. Williams is high on the line, too.

"I know early in the year they took a lot of criticism for not being a great offensive line, but the whole time we knew the potential and to stick with them," he said. "And now those guys are gelling and doing a great job."

The Tigers allowed 13 sacks in the first two games and only one since.

"It takes time for that to happen sometimes, for that group to gel," said Hugh Nall, Auburn's offensive coordinator and line coach. "We've still got a long way to go. I'm not happy with a lot of things. It's never perfect, and until it is, I'll never be happy. But they're getting better."

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