Auburn’s schedule is a bit of an anomaly this season. That’s why, in their sixth game of the season, the Tigers are just now playing their first road game. There was good reason for Auburn fans to be nervous. All teams struggle away from the confines of their home stadium and II a.m. kickoffs have never been kind to the Tigers. Stack onto that Auburn’s recent struggles with Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs and it’s easy to see why the Auburn faithful had reservations. As it turns out, there was little cause for concern at all. Auburn put together their most complete game of the season, leading 35-0 at half time, en route to a 38-14 win.
Sean White, after an early interception, had his best game of the season. The game began with a third down pass being deflected right into the hands of a Bulldog defender. After that, only three passes hit the ground for the rest of the day. White went 14 of 18 for 204 yards and a touchdown pass. And while he still hasn’t shown the ability to run the football, he’s quickly becoming a solid option as Auburn’s signal caller.
The true star of Saturday’s game was Kamryn Pettway. After an early injury to Kerryon Johnson, Pettway took over as the primary back. His size and speed gashed the smaller Bulldogs defense, helping the Tigers convert almost 50 percent of their third downs. In total, Pettway carried the ball 39 times on the day. He racked up 169 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was thrilled with the production he got from his big tailback.
“It was huge. KJ went down fairly early and Pettway had to carry the load,” Malzahn said. “We’re really happy with the way he carried the load.
And while the offense was putting up huge numbers, the defense continued its rapid growth. The starters held the Bulldogs scoreless through the first half and only allowed points once the reserves entered the game. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was held to a 50 percent completion rate and turned the ball over three times. The rush defense was stout, giving up just 103 yards on the ground.
Defensive end Carl Lawson came up huge against the Mississippi State offensive tackles. The junior racked up two sacks, including one that forced a fumble returned by Montravius Adams for a touchdown. After the game, Malzahn was excited about the touchdown he got from his two defensive linemen.
“I think Carl’s the one that got it done,” Malzahn said. “Those two guys right there are two of the best.”
Auburn will have a bye this weekend, with a good chance to rest up for their game against Arkansas. The Razorbacks are fresh off a 19-point loss at home to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Arkansas offers a great chance for Auburn to continue building momentum, as a win over the Razorbacks would mark four straight. These past three weeks it seems as though Gus Malzahn’s seat has cooled down a great deal. A few more SEC wins would all but guarantee him another year on the Plains.