Jan. 2, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Florida State has not given up more than 17 points in any of its last nine games and has given up that many just once – in a 45-17 blowout of North Carolina State. It has held five opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing and leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up 10.7 points per game.
Auburn, in its nine-game winning streak, has had more than 500 rushing yards twice and more than 400 yards four times. The Tigers lead the nation in rushing at 335.7 yards per game. They have scored 30 or more points nine consecutive times.
Something has to give.
Auburn tailback Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall are going to run the ball behind a confident and talented offensive line. Can Florida State stop it? That, Seminole defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his players say, will go a long way in determining who wins when they meet in the BCS Championship Game on Monday night at the Rose Bowl.
“They're going to run the football,” Pruitt said. “Everybody knows they're going to run the football, and you've got to be able to stop them.”
Timmy Jernigan, the decorated junior nose guard in Florida State’s 3-4 defense, says that is a lot easier to say than it is to do.
“I feel they're great up front,” Jernigan said Thursday. “Their center (Reese Dismukes) does a great job at his double teams and getting up to the second level, and the left tackle, Greg Robinson, when he comes down and washes down on the 3-technique, he almost wipes out the whole defensive line with him. There's a reason why he's rated so high.
“They're really good up front, and their quarterback, he's so fast and he has the ability to get to the edge of the defenses, work up to the second level. The running back, you can't tackle him one on one. He's going to make the first guy miss. So we have to do a great job at gang tackling and getting him to the ground.”
Dismukes, Auburn’s All-Southeastern Conference center, and Jernigan could be the most intriguing matchup in the game.
"He's a great player and a destructive force in the middle," Dismukes said. "I mean, I'm going to have to play my best game along with the other four guys next to me. We're five guys, and we play together."
Jernigan, who has 54 tackles, a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.6 sacks, says he, too, will have to be at the top of his game to deal with Dismukes.
"I understand that I'm going to have to play a huge role in order for us to win this game and be dominant on defense," Jernigan said. "When you run this scheme, you've got to be dominant in the middle. When you have a dominant nose guard it's going to make everything else go smoothly."
Linebacker Christian Jones says it will be an old-school, physically demanding football game.
“We've seen tape, and it looks like a little hole and Tre Mason just slips right through and takes off for 20,” Jones said. “… They're just good at doing what they do. They're going to run the ball, and we've just got to stop it. Old school type mentality. We've just got to put on our big boy pants and execute what our coaches put in for us.”
Pruitt, who moved to Florida State from Alabama after last season and put in a similar scheme, says it was helpful watching Auburn attack Alabama’s defense. But, he pointed out, Auburn gained 296 yards on the ground in beating Alabama 34-28.
“Watching Alabama, yes, that helped us some because we're familiar with who Alabama is, what they're trying to get done,” Pruitt said, “but these guys have had success running the football against everybody.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: