Ben Tate sheepishly admitted he might have said last week that he was the best running back in the state. A second later, he contradicted himself.
“Maybe I didn’t,” the Auburn running back said.
Whatever the case, Tate wasn’t nearly as emphatic Wednesday as when he was quoted by the Athens Banner-Herald last week.
“I know I’m the best back in the state,” he told the paper. “I bet if you went and broke down film and asked teams in the SEC who is the best back in the state, I mean I feel like it’s me.”
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The statement raised a few eyebrows in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama running back Mark Ingram is turning in the type of year that has him near the top of almost every Heisman Trophy list.
Given a chance to clarify Wednesday, Tate was complimentary of Ingram, whose Crimson Tide travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Iron Bowl the day after Thanksgiving.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he’s a very good running back,” Tate said. “He’s having a great year. Their team is undefeated. He’s a great running back. I hope he wins the Heisman.”
The two backs have comparable stats. Ingram, a sophomore, has 1,297 rushing yards, a 6.7-yard average and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. Tate, a senior, has 1,209 rushing yards, a 5.4-yard average and eight touchdowns in 11 games.
Both have six 100-yard games this season. Both rank in the top-20 nationally in rushing (Ingram’s fifth in yards per game; Tate’s 17th).
The biggest difference is in the teams’ records. Alabama is ranked No. 2 in the country with a 10-0 mark. Auburn is 7-4.
“His team is winning, they’re undefeated, so of course, he’s going to be talked about,” Tate said last week.
Tate, who struggled throughout his junior season with only 664 rushing yards, has been pleased with the way his final year has played out.
“It’s definitely good to go out like this,” he said. “It’s finishing out pretty good and I couldn’t ask for much more besides a couple more wins. But I can end it with the opportunity to win the Iron Bowl. That’d be a good way to go out.”
A changed man
Cornerback Walt McFadden promised last week to light up the message boards with some trash talk leading up to the Alabama game. He’s had a change of heart.
“I think I have a new attitude now,” the boisterous fifth-year senior said. “I’m a changed man. Playing Alabama this week. It’s a big game. Those guys do it really good over there. Good team overall — defense, special teams and offense. They’re putting everything together so I can’t say anything bad about them because they’re doing what we’re supposed to be trying to get done.”
McFadden, a noted trash-talker, said he and Georgia’s A.J. Green has some cordial conversation last Saturday before the receiver left with an injury.
“He’s a good guy,” McFadden said. “Usually I talk a lot of trash on the field. I don’t know. It’s kind of weird. I came at him a little different. It’s like, ‘Hey man, I hear your lung’s bad.’ He’s just basically like, ‘Yeah man. I can’t breathe right now.’ I felt bad for him. I was like, ‘I hope you get better.’”
McFadden will line up with Alabama wideout Julio Jones in the Iron Bowl. Asked who was better, he couldn’t help but give an opinion.
“I like A.J. Green,” McFadden said. “He reminds me of a Randy Moss-type of receiver.”