After two slow-rolling starts, the Auburn Tigers found their traction and ran up and down the field leaving tire tracks on their helpless opponent Kent State producing 467 yards on the ground. Three players topped the prestigious one hundred yard mark Whitlow (135), Gatewood (102) and Shivers (102); it marked the first time since 1983.
The MAC Conference representatives knew it was going to be a long day when they allowed 142 yards in the first quarter and fourteen points. Kent State came into historical Auburn for the first time unphased by the statures and Heisman Trophies putting together an impressive opening drive of 17 plays covering 71 yards that lasted 6:18. They ran out of gas at the 3-yard line before settling for a successful field goal. The Golden Flashes brought a lot of trickery with multiple players repositioning before the snap and throwing in manipulative motion.
They tried a reverse pass back to the quarterback, but the ball landed at his ankles Christian Tutt gave him a little shove on the incompletion that put him on his backside. Head coach Sean Lewis went haywire when there was no penalty drawing the eerie of the referee with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
His response to the misconduct penalty in the first quarter…
“There was a little bit of a double pass there. I thought that we were throwing the ball back to our quarterback. It thought the hit was a little bit late and I wanted to show our kids know that we weren’t going to come down here and get pushed around. But I was in the wrong. I went out too far and said the wrong thing. I just wanted to protect our kids.”
Undoubtedly the run game was a top priority for the Tigers considering last week versus Tulane they could only grind out 20 yards rushing in the first half. They scored seven of seven times they entered the red zone amassing 633 total yards, achieving 32 first downs and average 8 yards per play, any way you slice it that’s the definition of total domination.
Gus Malzhan on getting confidence going in the running game tonight…
“It’s really important when we’re running the football and playing with pace. That’s when we are at our best. It opens things up. It was a really good night. I think more than anything; it was just a commitment to run the football. We were very committed to doing that tonight, and I think that helped also.”
The only negative from the offensive perspective were the two fumbles neither led to a turnover, however, they were laid on the ground which has to be a concern going into next week against 16th ranked Texas A&M.
Defensively pressure didn’t burst the pipes; instead, it clogged up everything producing 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Jeremiah Dinson has led the team in all three games as he contributed 8 tackles. Miraculously QB Dustin Crum escaped with his life and managed to play with all things considered a great game, completing 15-24 passes for 198 yards with 1 touchdown through the air. He also led the team in rushing with 30 yards.
I am uncertain of the impact these mix match games have for the superior team from the superior conference. In this case, it was a homecoming feast for the Tigers laying out Kent State 55-16. For Kent State, it’s a stop along their $4.5 million journey as they play three power five teams Auburn, Arizona State, and Wisconsin on the road.
Auburn starts its path to playing the toughest schedule in the country next week in College Station against Texas A&M.