After back-to-back disappointing outings against Clemson and Mercer, the Auburn offense needed to show up in a big way Saturday night in Columbia. And they did exactly that, racking up 482 yards of total offense in a 51-14 rout of Missouri to open SEC play.
Auburn played well and showed some promise, but you are supposed to beat the bottom feeders of the conference like Missouri, and they did what was expected of them. The first real test for this team in conference play will come next week, when the Bulldogs of Mississippi State come to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Overall, a good performance for Auburn, and one that Gus Malzahn had to have. Let’s hand out some grades for what was a convincing SEC-opener:
Hard to find anything wrong with the coaching staff in this game. The offense finally took some deep shots downfield, which has been lacking, completing on passes of 46, 57, and 58 yards. The first-team defense was tremendous again creating two turnovers and only giving up one touchdown in the game, considering Missouri’s second touchdown of the night came against the second-team defense in clean-up time.
Jarrett Stidham stayed hot. He threw for 218 yards and one touchdown on 13-of-17 passing. Stidham also looked more comfortable in the pocket than he has all season and made the right decisions to scramble when the pocket was collapsing. He has passed for 582 yards while completing over 80 percent of his passes the last two games.
Malik Willis also made his debut in the fourth quarter. Although he didn’t do too much in the box score, he showed flashes of why he might be the future for Auburn football and why he could be the next Nick Marshall. He is a true dual-threat athlete at the quarterback position that has the potential to run the read option to perfection.
Running Backs: A
Auburn didn’t have much trouble moving the ball on the ground, rushing for 263 yards as a team, against a weak Missouri front. Kerryon Johnson returned to the team in style scoring five touchdowns, and rushing for 48 yards on 18 carries. There was also a steady dose of Johnson in the wildcat formation, particularly in the red zone. Kam Martin also ran for 74 yards on 9 carries. They were supposed to dominate, and they did. No complaints here.
Wide Receivers: A
This group of receivers finally played as we have been expecting them to play. Yes, Missouri’s defense is bad but Mercer's was no better on paper. This group put together a complete performance, did not have any drops and did not commit any turnovers. As mentioned earlier, the offense went vertical. Kyle Davis, Will Hastings and Nate Craig-Myers all had catches of over 45 yards down the field. Eli Stove showed great speed all night rushing for 56 yards, including a 31-yard sweep that he nearly took to the house.
Offensive Line: A-
With all of the criticism being hurled at the O-line, Herb Hand’s group needed a good outing on the road and Missouri’s poor defensive front was no match. They gave Johnson and Martin holes to run through and they gave Stidham time to throw. Johnson's yards-per-carry average was a bit low for the first-team tailback, however. Only one sack was given up late in the game by the reserves, so overall an encouraging performance for the unit.
Defensive Line/ Linebackers: B
As people have come to expect, the Auburn defense was lights out. Apart from one touchdown drive at the end of the first half and one late touchdown against the reserves, Missouri’s offense had trouble moving the ball. The D-line was impressive once again only giving up 124 yards on the ground. Marlon Davidson played very well at tackle and even returned a fumble into Mizzou territory. Linebackers Montavious Atkinson and Richard McBride both stepped up in the absence of Tre’ Williams and didn’t allow any big plays up the middle.
Defensive Backs: B
The first-team secondary had a solid night giving up just over 200 yards of passing, most of which came when Malzahn put the back-ups in the game. Jeremiah Dinson and Tray Matthews played especially well and were flying to the ball all night. There were hardly any missed tackles, not many blown coverages and Carlton Davis added a diving interception that led to a touchdown drive.
Special Teams: A-
Auburn fans can relax. Daniel Carlson is back to his old self, going 3/3 on Saturday night. After missing a handful of relatively easy kicks to open the season, Carlson silenced the critics hitting three long field goals, two of which were more than 50 yards, to show he is still one of the best kickers in the country. He hit from 41, 52, and 54 yards out. However, punter Ian Shannon struggled just enough to keep the Carlson-to-punter conversations alive.