Auburn rushing attack clicked on Saturday night. They took care of business against an inferior opponent and cruised to a 55-16 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Tigers did so with a dominant ground game and a steady defense.
Auburn Rushing Attack Cruise Passed Kent State 55-16
Run Game Leads The Offense
Coming into this week, Auburn rushing attack was averaging 189 yards per game. That’s not a horrible statistic, but they were only averaging 45 yards on the ground in the first half against Oregon and Tulane. Last week, they only managed 20 yards in the first 30 minutes. This week was a different story.
Against Kent State in the first half Auburn had a total of 205 rushing yards, and 467 for the entire game. Leading the way was JaTarvious Whitlow with 135 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries. That is an average of 7.9 yards per carry. Whitlow had 92 yards when Auburn headed into the locker room for the halftime break. Most importantly, Whitlow did not have a single fumble in the contest. Last week against the Green Wave he had three fumbles. To be the Auburn feature back, protecting the ball will be essential.
Now, Whitlow was not the only rusher getting into the action. The Auburn rushing attack had three players go over 100 yards rushing in the game. That had not happened since 1983 back when Bo Jackson was leading the Tigers. Backup quarterback Joey Gatewood and running back Shaun Shivers had 102 yards, and Gatewood added two scores in the second half. Most of the yards for both did occur in the second half. Gatewood had 93 yards while Shivers put up 79.
On this evening, quarterback Bo Nix looked to be a more willing runner with the read-option than he had been in the first two games. Nix had 21 yards on seven carries and had a touchdown in the first half. That was also to go along with a solid 12 for 16 and 161 yards through the air with one touchdown pass. The key receiver was Eli Stove with 88 yards with six receptions and a touchdown off a flea-flicker early in the second half. Auburn needed a receiver to step up with Seth Williams out with an injury.
Defense Was Good
The Auburn defense is one of the best in the country and one of the most talented in the country. That was showcased in the first two games when the offense was still trying to gain its footing. The game though did not start out well on that side of the ball.
During the first Kent State possession, Auburn did a good job at getting the Golden Flashes to third down. However, third down was an issue on that drive. Kent State went four of five on third downs for 58 yards. The Golden Flashes had 71 yards on the drive but only was able to manage a field goal by Matthew Trickett. That 3-0 lead with 8:42 remaining in the first was the only lead for Kent State.
Auburn opponents coming in have averaged just 105 rushing yards a game. The Golden Flashes couldn’t muster up that much against the Tigers front. Kent State rushed for just 92 yards and 57 of those came from the two quarterbacks that saw action in the game. The average yards per rush was an underwhelming 2.9.
One of those quarterbacks was very familiar to Auburn. Backup Woody Barrett was once a very prized four-star recruit for the Auburn Tigers and Gus Malzahn. Barrett spent a redshirt year at Auburn and then decided to transfer. That was most likely due to the arrival of Jarrett Stidham and Sean White was still on campus at the time. Barrett went 3-for-11 for 31 yards with a touchdown and 27 yards rushing.
After the Auburn rushing attack cruised to victory on Saturday there are a few injuries to keep an eye on with SEC play opening next week. They travel to College Station to meet the Texas A&M Aggies. Star receiver Seth Williams was held out of the game and Derrick Brown left the game early in the fourth quarter. Opening conference play with a win will be very crucial for Auburn with Mississippi State and Florida on the schedule in the following weeks.