Auburn is as different as night and day
What a difference a week makes. After being held to 13 points in its season-opening loss to Clemson, Auburn broke out with 51 Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Arkansas State.
Here is an analysis of the Tigers’ 51-14 win.
• The running game gets in gear: After running for just 87 yards last week – its lowest total under Gus Malzahn – Auburn rushed 62 times for a whopping 462 yards, its second-highest totals in the three-plus years he has been the Tigers’ head coach. Yes, Arkansas State is nowhere near Clemson’s league in terms of ability, but AU’s offensive line deserves a lot of credit for this output. Kamryn Pettway (152) and Kerryon Johnson (124) each gained more than 100 yards on the ground, the first time two AU players have reached that number in a game in two years.
• One QB is better than three: Last’s week’s three-QB system didn’t work against Clemson, so Malzahn entrusted Sean White with running the offense, which he led to near perfection by completing 17-of-23 passes for 244 yards and 3 TDs. Auburn produced points on 10 of its 12 drives, and at one point scored touchdowns on five straight possessions.
• John Franklin III is a run-first QB: The JUCO transfer rushed 4 times for 70 yards, including a 41-yard scamper. He didn’t throw any passes, probably because the game was such as blowout. But at least we got a glimpse of how quick he is. And if White gets hurt, we can exhale a little more knowing that Franklin is getting even more up to speed.
• Derrick Brown is a beast: The freshman defensive tackle made only one stop, but it was a big one. Midway through the first quarter, Brown smothered running back Warren Wand for no gain. Brown is 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, while Wand checks in at 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds. He helped Auburn hold Arkansas State to 1.9 yards per carry on 35 attempts.
• Kyle Davis is a heck of an athlete: The freshman made the catch of the night by hooking up with White on a 42-yard pass that was reminiscent of Odell Beckham’s memorable grab against the Cowboys two years ago.
Offense: A – Auburn finished with 706 total yards, its highest total since it had 677 in the 2013 SEC Championship Game and second-most in school history. The Tigers burned Western Carolina for 712 yards in 2013.
Defense: B – How Auburn performed against the run was particularly impressive. Arkansas State finished with 326 total yards, with only 66 on the ground.
Special teams: A – The 20-yard TD that place kicker Daniel Carlson scored on off a fake punt was a thing of beauty.
Coaching: B – From going with one quarterback most of the night to running the ball 62 times to shoring up the defense, the staff brought its A game.
Overall: A – There can’t be too much to complain about after winning by 37 points. Obviously not every game will be this easy, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Auburn ran the ball 73 percent of the time, which led to a 35:42/24:18 time of possession edge. Plus, when it did throw the ball, the Tigers completed nearly 74 percent of their passes. Auburn might be hard-pressed to top its 85-play effort.
• DE Carl Lawson: In addition to recording his first sack of the year, he also had a QB hurry and a tackle for loss.
• WR Tony Stevens: His 4 catches for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns were all career-highs.
• Holder Tyler Stovall: His over-the-shoulder flip to Carlson made it possible for Auburn to score its special teams touchdown. Les Miles has run trick plays such as this one with LSU.