7:45 PM ET, October 4, 2003
Jordan-Hare Stadium, AUBURN, AL
Auburn's Cadillac Williams is a tough load to bring down.
"They were talking all week about them being so physical and us being so soft," Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We just came up and hit them in the mouth."
Especially Williams, a preseason All-SEC pick who had his first 100-yard effort of the season with a tireless 36 carries and made two key receptions for first downs.
"From here on out, I think we're going to show the country we are one of the best teams in the country," said Williams, who originally committed to play for the Volunteers out of high school.
Jason Campbell had two touchdown passes for Auburn (3-2, 2-0 SEC), which has won five of its last seven games against top-10 teams.
The Tigers finally showcased their heralded tailbacks in a marquee game with their third straight victory after an 0-2 start that dropped them out of the rankings.
The Volunteers (4-1, 2-1) abandoned their own star tailbacks Jabari Davis and Cedric Houston from the outset, trying to ride Casey Clausen's passing to the victory. The result was an anemic running game that netted 4 yards on 16 carries, 184 yards below their season average.
"Some of their backs were talking trash and stuff, saying they're the best backfield in the SEC," Williams said. "I felt like we as a team needed to come out and make a statement."
Clausen still nearly pulled it off, throwing two fourth-quarter touchdown passes before a late interception and rallying the team from an early 14-0 deficit.
"The first half we didn't make any plays, and that made the second half tougher," said Clausen, who had won his first 11 starts on the road.
He led the Vols to the Auburn 29 after converting a fourth-and-15 with a 22-yarder to Chris Hannon, who dropped a pass downfield on the previous play.
Clausen rushed 10 yards for another first down and was hit out of bounds to give Tennessee a first down at the Auburn 29. Carlos Rogers picked off a pass intended for Mark Jones on the next play.
The Vols had taken over at their own 29 with 1:52 left and no timeouts after John Vaughn pushed a 46-yard field goal wide right.
Two of the league's top 10 rushers, Houston and Davis combined for only 14 yards on nine carries.
The Tigers amassed 264 rushing yards, the most allowed by the Vols since Kansas State gained 297 in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2001.
"This is probably the best job we've done on offense in the last two years," said Tommy Tuberville, whose offensive coaches drew fire after the Tigers failed to get a touchdown in the first two games.
The running game helped Auburn hold onto the ball for more than 36 minutes and negated Clausen's 355-yard performance. He completed 30 of 47 passes, a career high for attempts and matching his highest completion number.
"We never got in sync tonight," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We worked well all week, and I thought we were prepared. In the end, we were too nice to Auburn (with mistakes)."
The Tigers made it 28-7 early in the fourth quarter. Campbell set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cole Bennett with a play-action fake, rolling right and hitting his wide-open target. It was only his second pass of the half.
Clausen hit Jones on a 16-yarder and Hannon on a 28-yarder, capping two drives that took less than five minutes off the clock.
Williams' 1-yard plunge gave Auburn a 21-7 lead with 4:38 left in the third quarter, his eighth straight rush. The Tigers ran it on 11 straight plays.
The Vols' first two second-half drives ended with a missed field goal and a fumble in Auburn territory.
"We finished the game good, but we had a terrible start," Houston said. "We didn't get it going, and when we did it was too late."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-13||9-14|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-0|
|TD||10:46||RONNIE BROWN 6 YD RUN (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||4:58||BEN OBOMANU 29 YD PASS FROM JASON CAMPBELL (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 85 yards.
|TD||0:26||JABARI DAVIS 1 YD RUN (JAMES WILHOIT KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 84 yards.
|TD||4:38||CARNELL WILLIAMS 1 YD RUN (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||14:12||COLE BENNETT 8 YD PASS FROM JASON CAMPBELL (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||12:01||MARK JONES 16 YD PASS FROM CASEY CLAUSEN (JAMES WILHOIT KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||7:53||CHRIS HANNON 28 YD PASS FROM CASEY CLAUSEN (JAMES WILHOIT KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.