This week, Crimson & Cream Machine will do some advance scouting on Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl opponent, the Auburn Tigers. Normally, CCM scouts the other team in one post before a game based on recent performance. But since we have an entire regular season to work with, this week’s posts will look back on the whole Auburn season in three parts. Today, it’s the middle of the schedule: Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
When last we left the Tigers, they were busy ending Les Miles’s LSU career with a dramatic, controversial 18-13 victory that saw them shut down Leonard Fournette and the Bayou Bengals’ offense.
That brought Auburn’s record back to .500, 2-2 in the early season with no one quite sure what to expect the rest of the way.
The next game against Louisiana-Monroe was not particularly enlightening, but was certainly encouraging. The Tigers went off for 410 rushing yards, including 146 for the team’s new star running back Kerryon Johnson. He got most of those in the first half.
Sean White hit the pine after a very good 14-17, two touchdown passing day, and John Franklin III got his time to shine. Franklin rose to the moment with an 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, going untouched around his right tackle and through the porous Warhawks second level.
But White got right back under center one week later against Mississippi State, and didn’t disappoint. It was AU’s first road game of the season, but the Starkville cowbells didn’t faze the Tigers.
Johnson went down with an injury in the first quater, which left the door open for AU’s other new star rusher: Kamryn Pettway. Pettway showed off his speed and explosiveness, getting 39 carries for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the wake of preseason instability, it was becoming obvious that Auburn had not one but two great running backs on its hands.
The Tigers were up 35-0 on the Bulldogs at the half, rendering the last 30 minutes a mere formality. The stifling Auburn defense was back in force, with 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. Auburn’s last first-half touchdown was a 13-yard big man scoop-and-score from massive D-lineman Montravius Adams after a Bulldogs fumble.
That win sent Auburn back into the top 25 and back home to play the #17 Arkansas Razorbacks. After a bye week, the Tigers opened as the odds-on favorite despite their lower ranking. No one, however, expected the Razorbacks to go down easy.
But Auburn absolutely slaughtered those Hogs. On Auburn’s first play from scrimmage, Eli Stove—not Pettway or Johnson (who sat out again with injury), but some dude named Stove—broke free for a 78-yard score. The Tigers scored 21 in the first quarter and absolutely cruised to a 56-3 victory.
Five different Tigers scored rushing touchdowns on the day, and Pettway and Stanton Truitt both had two. Even the pocket-passing White ran for a score and another 41-yard play.
Arkansas didn’t help itself any, either—Hogs QB Austin Allen pump-faked a fumble as he scrambled at the end of the first quarter in a play emblematic of the team’s crappy day. All of a sudden, Auburn looked like it might actually be the second-best team in the SEC, while Arkansas was exposed as the pretender it was.
Auburn rode that momentum into a clash with the reeling Ole Miss Rebels. Almost Auburn’s polar opposite, the Rebels by that time had come to be totally reliant on Chad “Douchenozzle” Kelly and his arm. The result was a 465 yards of passing, but somehow just 29 points for Ole Miss. Douchenozzle Kelly completed just over half of his passes at 36-for-59, tossing three touchdowns and a pick. But the Ole Miss offense attempted just 31 rushes—11 of them, a team high, were Kelly’s—and 29 points wasn’t enough against an Auburn offense rejuvenated by its rushers.
Auburn got Johnson back, but still leaned on Pettway for 30 carries and he led the squad with 236 yards. Johnson was used mostly in short-yardage or red-zone situations, scoring 2 touchdowns to celebrate his return.
The game was tight throughout, and Ole Miss got the ball back with 8 minutes left down just 4 after a Daniel Carlson field goal. But senior DB Josh Holsey broke on an errant Kelly third-down pass near midfield and caught it in stride, returning it 47 yards to help Auburn seal the victory.
White, throwing sparingly, managed 247 yards and over 11 per completion in the game. He couldn’t outduel Kelly, but his running game meant he didn’t have to try.
Though some expected a bigger victory after Auburn’s Razorbacks romp, it was impossible to feel bad about five straight wins. The Tigers had discovered their offensive weapons and maintained general defensive excellence. People began to whisper about a surprisingly competitive Iron Bowl—but first, Vanderbilt and Georgia lay ahead.