Auburn, Ala.--Travis Williams and the rest of the Tigers say they are ready for the first road challenge of the season against Arkansas.
“I like it, especially if it’s a hostile environment,” Williams says. “It depends on how the fans are. So going up to Knoxville and Baton Rouge, places like that... Arkansas...sometimes the fans can give us a little fuel by talking mean and getting onto us so hard. We play harder just to shut them up.”
For a handful of Auburn defenders like David Irons, Jonathan Wilhite and Eric Brock, Saturday’s game will be the first SEC road test of their young careers in which they receive a lot of playing time. But for Williams, a three-year starter at linebacker, playing on the road is something he is used to and enjoys.
Williams played a crucial role in the Tigers’ last visit to Fayetteville, a 10-3 victory, forcing a fumble deep in Auburn territory in the fourth quarter to help preserve the win.
“It’s fun when you’ve beaten a team and their fans are leaving,” he says. “I always like seeing that. It’s always fun quieting the fans down. You can kind of sense if the fans are with you or not, if they’re leaving early.
“It’s always different because it’s everyone against you--70,000 or 80,000 folks against you,” Williams adds. “At the same time, the fans never take a snap. We can’t really pay attention to the fans. We’ve got to go out and take care of business.”
Williams and his fellow linebackers will face a tough task in trying to shut down the Arkansas running game on Saturday.
Saturday’s contest won’t be an ordinary walk in the park for Williams as the Tigers defensive front seven face a strong rushing attack with talented backs like Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, De’Arrius Howard and Peyton Hillis. All four Razorback backs average more than five yards per carry and more than 50 yards per game.
“It’s a challenge for me being the mike 'backer (middle linebacker),” Williams says. “It’s a challenge for our front seven. Every team they play they’ve been putting up big numbers rushing the ball. It’s going to going to be challenge for us to see where we’re at as far as the running.
“The only thing tougher about the different backs is that you’re always going to face a fresh back,” he adds. “When it boils down to football, it’s just football. The only thing that is different is that some of them are going to have fresh legs with the four backs.”
Williams is coming off one of his more impressive career games two weeks ago against home-state South Carolina, in which he racked up 11 tackles on his way to being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week. The two weeks before that, however, he sat out against Ball State and collected only two tackles against Western Kentucky because of a turf toe injury which is still hampering him.
“It’s still kind of bothering me a little bit,” he says. “It’s better than it was, but it’s going to be a nagging injury for the rest of the season. It’s one of those situations where you’ve got to treat it everyday and get up at 6:30 and go to treatment twice a day.”