After a shaky start, the Auburn Tigers have hit their stride as they move deeper into SEC Play. QB Jarrett Stidham is getting better and better by the quarter he has a different bounce in his set up, the game appears to have slowed down, and he is saying the whole offense better than he did in the first couple of games of the season. He has the Family of War Eagles thinking about the SEC Championship.
Somehow if they could nurse both running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway to health with this top-ranked defense, they would be something to reckon. If one were to make that statement to their SEC foe Ole Miss whom they beat up on today 44-23 they would say they are already there. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with Kerryon Johnson. All he did was run for a career-high of 204 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns.
His performance drew praise from his head coach Gus Malzhan, “Kerryon Johnson is a warrior. I’m very proud of him. He was probably close to 90 percent. He’ll probably get healthier and healthier as the season goes. We were smart with him this week. He’s just an impact player.”
Ole Miss Started the game in hurry-up mode, a strategy to keep the Auburn beast of a defense off balance. It appeared to be working they connected on a 31-yard pass to get into scoring territory. A bit of misfortune occurred on a goof play that resulted in a QB fumble and recovery. The drive stalled, so they attempted a 43-yard field goal that went off the upright.
Stidham and company hit the field firing on all cylinders marching to the beat of 10 plays picking up 74 yards to score on their first possession. Kerryon Johnson tore off the right end and put a juke move on the cornerback that left him looking for his undergarments as he danced into the end zone. The drive looked as if though it might stall but Ole Miss shot themselves in the foot when the entire defensive line jumped giving Auburn five yards. As if that was not enough they did it again on the very next play giving them a first down the Tigers took full advantage.
On their next possession, Ole Miss put together a decent drive and managed to get a field goal. Big Play Ryan Davis caught a little screen pass circled the defender and hit the turbo button on his PlayStation controller and went 75 yards for a touchdown as if he was a character on MADDEN. The crowd could sense he was going to the house when he planted off the left sideline and cut completely back across the field zagging his way into the end zone.
The defense forced Ole Miss to turn the ball over on downs. Stidham returned with perfect timing he threw to the back pylon before WR Darius Slayton came out of his break. He ran to the spot, and the ball arrived at the same spot for a 19-yard touchdown reception there was nothing the defender could do. “folks that was a big-time throw by a big-time QB” welcome to Auburn University Football kid. That is what the crowd of 86,700 was looking for.
At the beginning of the second quarter, the Ole Miss offense had 1 rushing yard. Auburn had 213 total yards and a 21-3 lead. The scoring continued for Kerryon Johnson on a little handoff up the middle. He made one cut and went straight downhill for a 48-yard touchdown. It looked as if Auburn was in a scrimmage game or just out to practice.
My analysis of the first half:
Ole Miss threw everything they had on their first drive when it went off the uprights so did their realistic hopes of this being a competitive game. By the time they played the Whitney Houston Song I Want to Dance With Somebody, I want to feel the heat with somebody the fire was out. Kerryon Johnson had 159 yards on 16 carries with 3 touchdowns, and Jarrett Stidham displayed pinpoint accuracy connecting on 9-11 passes for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Rebels had a total of 18 rushing yards. Moreover, they were down 35-3 at the regrouping period.
Coach Malzahn said “we played extremely well in all three phases. Our defense was playing well in the first half, our offense got into a rhythm, and our special teams in the second half. It was just putting the game away in the second half.”
As if 35-3 was not enough Auburn received to start the second half Luke Logan took the kickoff back 70 yards. The drive stalled but they came out of with three more points on a 49-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson who has become the SEC’s all-time leading scorer. At this point it was like pick your poison, stop us one way, we will kill you the other. Ole Miss finally got some good news on a 40-yard pass completion to A J Brown. That was the key play of an 8 play 75-yard drive that resulted in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to D K Metcalf. It was the Rebels first touchdown of the day making the score 38-10.
The Ole Miss Defense made an appearance in the third quarter preventing touchdowns. Unfortunately, the drives resulted in two field goals. Head Coach Gus Malzahn took his foot off the gas resting the starters allowing Ole Miss to put two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the final score of 44-23 look deceptively more competitive than this game was. Ole Miss QB ran for his life most of the game thank God he was both swift and agile otherwise those Tigers came to eat. Considering what he was up against though his team lost the game, he played outstanding connecting on 34 of 51 passes for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions.
You have to tip your hat to Ole Miss they took a shellacking last week from Alabama who rolled every tide they had over them 66-3. They were getting their behinds handed to them in the first half, but they came out the second half and fought. Perhaps QB Shea Patterson said it best.
On the difference between the first and second halves…
“Going through the first half, we went through some adversity. I think it was the adjustment we made in the second half. We really made a statement that we wanted to finish the game whether we win or lose with a good vibe coming out of the game. I think offensively we were rolling. I think we feel a lot better than we did last week coming out of the second half. So we can build on that momentum.”
SEC Play continues for Auburn as they travel to the Bayou next week to take on the LSU Tigers.