Rapid Reaction: Auburn takes down Ole Miss 44-23
Gus Malzahn’s Auburn squad is proving week-by-week that it is a legitimate contender to Alabama in the SEC West.
The Tigers rolled past Ole Miss 44-23 at home on Saturday to advance their season record to 5-1 (3-0 SEC). Since an ugly offensive performance against Clemson, Auburn hasn’t been challenged.
Saturday’s performance was similar to the ones before it — a nasty, balanced offense, coupled with a solid effort on defense, though Auburn did allow a few too many yards in this one in the second half.
Here are a few takeaways from the Tigers’ blowout over the Rebels:
Kerryon Johnson may be SEC’s best running back
If not for two games missed because of a hamstring injury, Johnson might be in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Not only does he lead the SEC in touchdowns among running backs this season, he’s scored 11 in the last three weeks. Eleven! On Saturday, Johnson appeared to be at his best, even though he may still not even be 100 percent. His 80 percent is better than the vast majority of SEC running backs. Johnson carried the football 28 times and gained 203 yards on the ground. He scored three rushing TDs, with a long run of 48 yards.
Auburn’s offense is incredibly balanced
And that’s a great sign moving forward. Johnson carries the load in the running game, along with contributors Kam Martin and Eli Stove (hopefully Kamryn Pettway will be back soon, as well). Auburn’s passing attack may be underrated, however. Sure, Malzahn loves to center his offense’s around the running game, but this team has shown great balance so far in the 2017 season. Against Ole Miss, the Tigers put up a whopping 561 yards of offense, with 326 of those coming on the ground and 235 coming through the air.
Defense exposed a bit?
Saturday’s performance on defense was not as good as it has been in previous weeks, but it was enough to get the job done. Ole Miss managed to rack up quite a few yards in the second half, though many of them came through the air in garbage time. Overall, the Tigers allowed 429 total yards to the Rebels. Coming into the game, Auburn was allowing just 259 yards per game. It also hadn’t given up more than 14 points in a game. The Rebels were able to score 23 points and expose the Tigers in the secondary a bit, but Auburn fans probably shouldn’t worry too much. The first-half effort was plenty to control the game.