Thus far Auburn’s ground game is picking up from last year when the Tigers became the first SEC team to lead the nation in rushing behind Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason, who set an Auburn rushing record for a season before foregoing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.
Auburn’s running game produced 302 yards in the opening win over Arkansas and 358 yards in Saturday’s victory over San Jose State. Artis-Payne had an Auburn career-high 177 yards against Arkansas and added 112 yards on 16 carries against San Jose State to go with a career-high three touchdowns against the Spartans.
A productive junior college running back when he came to Auburn in 2013 from California, Artis-Payne rushed for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns last year behind Mason.
Cameron Artis-Payne is in his second season at Auburn.
How does Artis-Payne see his role this year?
“I’m going to keep on improving on each thing,” he said. “I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m doing alright. The offense is great. The offensive front we have, we have Nick (Marshall), who is great everywhere. Our receiving corps is great. All in all, you know you’re going to get an opportunity in this offense.
“The offensive line wanted to come out and be real physical today, and that’s what they did,” he said. “They created a lot of holes and that’s the major thing we wanted to work on.”
Coach Gus Malzahn praised all the running backs. “He (Artis-Payne) did a good job, but Corey (Grant) did a good job in there, too. (89 yards on 10 carries). We utilize both of those guys. Nothing has changed as far as that goes. We have to have two of those guys and we also had some younger guys in there, too, Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas at the end. It’s good to get those guys in a game type situation.
“He has a good understanding of the overall offense,” Malzahn said of Artis-Payne. “He’s good on pass protection and he’s getting more comfortable behind this line.”
In other news and notes:
*Auburn’s 104 combined points after two games are tied for the seventh most in school history. The record is 138 in 1932.
*Auburn has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 13 straight games. The Tigers have scored an offensive touchdown in 31 of its last 32 quarters.
*Auburn has rushed for at least 200 yards in each of its last 13 games, the longest active streak in the FBS. The Tigers rushed for 300 yards in eight of the last 11 games.
*Auburn tallied 224 yards of total offense in the first quarter against San Jose State after having 225 yards of total offense in the first quarter against Arkansas last week.
*Auburn is 19-for-28 on third downs (67.9 percent) over the first two games of the season (9-for-14 vs. Arkansas, 10-for-14 vs. San Jose State).
*Auburn is 10-for-10 in the red zone this season (9 touchdowns, 1 field goal) after going 7-for-7 against San Jose State (6 touchdowns).
*In Auburn’s 16 games under Malzahn as head coach, it has averaged 328.5 yards rushing and 505 yards of total offense per game.
*Auburn held San Jose State without a second-half touchdown and has not allowed a second half touchdown this season, giving up just three second-half points.
*Auburn registered three interceptions, the most since it had three against Washington State to open the 2013 season.
*Auburn has extended its home non-conference winning streak to 24 games.
*The Tigers are 307-5 when scoring at least 30 points. Auburn has topped 30 points in 12 consecutive games, a school record.
*Auburn’s 59-13 win over San Jose State came in the first meeting between the two schools. The Tigers are 4-0 against current members of the Mountain West Conference after Saturday’s victory. Auburn previously defeated Fresno State (1996, 62-0), Wyoming (2000, 35-21)1932 and Utah State (2011, 42-38). All the games have been played in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*The Tigers are 5-3 all time in games played against teams from California. Until Saturday’s contest against Fresno State, Auburn hadn’t played a team from California since losing 23-0 to Southern Cal to open the 2003 season, a year after dropping a 24-17 contest to the Trojans in a game played in Los Angeles. After falling to Santa Clara 12-0 in 1932, the Tigers won four straight over California teams: 16-7 over Southern Cal in the 1986 Citrus Bowl; 55-0 over Pacific in 1989; 38-17 over Cal State Fullerton in 1990; and 62-0 over Fresno State in 1996.
*Auburn has won 24 straight non-conference games dating back to a 26-23 overtime to South Florida in 2007. The Tigers are 235-67-6 in non-conference games since the SEC began play in 1933.
*Auburn’s 2014 schedule includes eight bowl teams from 2013 that combined for a 6-2 post-season record. They are: Kansas State, Buffalo Wild Wings (won 31-14 vs. Michigan); LSU, Outback (won 21-14 vs. Iowa); Mississippi State, Liberty (won 44-7 vs. Rice); South Carolina, Capital One (won 34-24 vs. Wisconsin); Ole Miss, Music City (won 25-1 7 vs. Georgia Tech); Texas A&M, Chick-Fil-A (won 52-48 vs. Duke); Georgia, Gator (lost 24-19 vs. Nebraska); and Alabama, Sugar (lost 45-31 to Oklahoma).