Auburn, Ala.--After rushing for only one yard in the first half and 87 for the entire game in its 19-13 loss to Clemson, a week earlier, Auburn bounced back with one of the top offensive performances in school history in Saturday’s 51-14 victory over Arkansas State.
A pair of sophomores stepped up and led the way for the Tigers. Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway had more than a 100 yards each in the first half as Auburn took a 38-7 lead into the dressing room.
Pettway broke off a 64-yard run right before the half ended and finished with 103 yards on 10 carries at intermission while Johnson added 101 yards on 14 rushes that included his second and third touchdowns of the season. Pettway went on to finish with 152 yards on 15 rushes with Johnson adding 124 yards on 18 carries.
Quarterbacks John Franklin added 70 yards on only four carries in his first extended action while Sean White picked up a career-high 60 yards on 10 carries as the Tigers piled up 462 on the ground, the most since a 545-yard effort in the 2013 SEC Championship Game against Missouri.
With White adding 244 yards and three touchdowns passing, the Tigers racked up 706 yards total offense, the six short of the school record of 712 versus Western Carolina in 2013.
The last time two Auburn players had their first career 100-yard rushing nights in the same game was Sept. 11, 1982 vs. Wake Forest (Bo Jackson, 123; Lionel James, 118). Auburn is 23-7 with a 100-yard rusher under Gus Malzahn.
For Pettway, who didn’t get a carry in Auburn’s loss to Clemson, it was a special night. “I was really excited,” he said. “I just knew I was going to like running the ball again,” he said. “It’s just like I jumped right back into the groove.”
Pettway was caught from behind on 64-yard run two yards short of the end zone.
“I honestly didn’t think I would get caught, but it happened,”?he added. “I just know I’ve got to get faster.”
Nothing could take away his first game with an expanded role for the Tigers. “I needed this,” he said.
“It gave a lot of confidence and it gave our team a lot of confidence,” said the 6-0, 240-pound bruiser.
Malzahn sees positive things with the tandem of Johnson and Pettway. “I think it is very valuable (one-two punch),” the coach said. “We are still learning about those two guys. K.J. has had two games in a row in which he has carried the ball numerous times and tonight was Pettway’s first time to really carry the load. Those guys will continue to get better and they could a good one-two punch moving forward
“He (Pettway) is a load,” Malzahn added. “He’s a change-up from K.J. and showed some speed there. They got a couple of guys with speed and he almost busted that one before the half. He had another long run where they just barely got his foot. The more he carries the ball, the more comfortable he’ll get.”
In other news and notes:
* Auburn’s 462 rushing yards are the fourth-most in school history.
*Auburn’s 38 points in the first half were the most in a half since also scoring 38 in the first half in 2014 vs. San Jose State.
*Auburn’s 452 yards of offense in the first half were the most for the Tigers in a first half since racking up 484 in 2010 vs. Chattanooga.
*It was the third time under Malzahn for Auburn to amass 400-plus yards in a first half (2013 vs. Florida Atlantic & Western Carolina).
*With 32 first downs Auburn has had 20 or more first downs in 29 of its last 37 games. Last time with 30-plus first downs came in 2014 vs. Texas A&M (31).
*With his touchdowns runs of one and 47 yards in the first quarter against Arkansas State, Kerryon Johnson scored Auburn’s first three touchdowns of the season. He scored AU’s only touchdown in the Tigers’ 19-13 opening-game loss on a nine-yard run. Johnson’s TD against Clemson and one-yarder versus Arkansas State came with him taking snaps from the “wildcat” formation.
*Auburn’s first score that didn’t come from Johnson was a 24-yard pass from Sean White to senior wide receiver Tony Stevens, who made a nifty cut to elude the defensive back and head to the end zone. It was White’s first touchdown pass of the season and only the second of the redshirt sophomore’s career. It was the third career touchdown reception for Stevens.
*Stevens started as wide receiver along with Marcus Davis and Darius Slayton. Stevens moved ahead of Ryan Davis ,who started the opener the previous week against Clemson and went on to have perhaps the best game of his career with four catches for 75 yards and the two touchdowns.
*Freshman Kyle Davis’ first two career catches went for more than 40 yards: a 43-yard reception vs. Clemson last week and a 42-yard catch in the first quarter against Arkansas State. Davis is the first Auburn freshman with a 40-yard reception since 2002 when Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu and Anthony Mix accomplished the feat.
*Sophomore walk-on wide receiver Will Hastings, who caught the first passes of his AU career against Clemson, pulled in the first college TD on a 29-yard pass from White in the second quarter. Hastings had two catches for 34 yards against the Red Wolves.
*Slayton picked up his first career reception, a 15-yarder from Sean White in the first quarter. He ended the night with three catches for 55 yards.
*Auburn converted its first six third-down attempts of the game and was 7-for-8 overall in the first half (and scored on a fake field goal on fourth down on its only missed conversion). At 7-for-8 (87.5%), Auburn’s third-down conversion rate in the first half is its highest in a half since going 3-for-3 in the first half vs. Western Carolina in 2013.
*Auburn’s defense has now held its opponent to 10 points or less in each of the last five halves, dating back to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl vs. Memphis.
*Auburn did not punt in the game.
*Auburn’s first-quarter fumble by Kerryon Johnson snapped a streak of 421 straight carries by an Auburn running back without a fumble, dating back to the 2015 Jacksonville State game.