Auburn, Ala.--It took a while for him to get going on Saturday, but when the game was on the line Peyton Barber again came up big for the Auburn Tigers.
Gaining 69 of his 125 rushing yards in the final quarter and overtime, the sophomore also had one of the biggest plays of the game on a nine-yard reception to keep a scoring drive alive.
One of the keys for Auburn’s offense since taking over the early role as go-to guy for the Tigers, Barber hasn’t won the job just yet, according to Coach Gus Malzahn, but he’s getting close.
“He’s had two back-to-back weeks and it’s all about production,” Malzahn said. “He’s protecting the ball. A lot of those were hard yards at the end. You saw him on the flair pass and then we gave it to him the next time when they were all bunched up. He just projected himself in the end zone. He’s in a good spot.”
With 240 rushing yards in the first two games, Barber is just now beginning to hit his stride as a back on this level after two years of sitting and watching. That has meant learning on the run, something that has allowed him to gain a very valuable thing for a running back.
“It gives me a lot more confidence than I had last week,” Barber said. “We just have to keep moving forward and look for the third W.”
Moving forward is the key for Auburn, but it won’t be without plenty of focus on correcting the mistakes that have been drive-killers for the Tigers the first two games. With too many turnovers and not enough execution to get into any semblance of a rhythm, Barber said now it’s time to turn up the production offensively.
“You have to take it one game at a time,” Barber said. “Jacksonville State was really good, but we didn’t play to the standards we know we can play to.”
With SEC competition starting this week on the road at LSU it’s an important week for improvement before facing a major challenge in Baton Rouge. After a tough finish to league play a year ago it’s an Auburn team trying to get a bad taste out of its mouth, but for Barber it’s another first.
“To be honest I don’t know,” Barber said of what to expect in Baton Rouge as Auburn takes on an opponent that held on for a win on Saturday night at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs missed a field goal on the final play of the contest. “We just have to execute this week in practice and get better,” Barber said.