Coming off Saturday’s 51-14 win at Missouri, Auburn's offense as a whole improved mightily. However, it was the play of the offensive line that served as a huge sigh of relief for the Tiger faithful.
Right tackle Darius James, who sustained an injury against Mercer, did not play against Missouri. From left to right, Prince Tega Wanogho, Mike Horton, Casey Dunn, Braden Smith and Austin Golson started on the line for the Tigers. Golson started the first three games of the season at center, but James' injury forced him to move outside to right tackle. Casey Dunn, a graduate transfer from Jacksonville State, took Golson’s place at center.
"I thought I played really well. I believe I executed," Golson said. "There is obviously a lot I can get better at though. I will just keep trying to improve. I also played some left tackle late in the game, and I played guard in our "Rebel" packages. Wherever the team needs me I will go. I should know our offense by now.”
Auburn’s offensive line gave Stidham a clean pocket and protected him for most of the night. Missouri’s defensive line was supposed to be a strength of their team, but Auburn allowed only one sack and one quarterback hurry all night.
The knowledge that Golson gained from playing center aided him in moving outside, the senior claimed.
“It helps a lot," Golson said. "At center you have to know what everyone is doing on every play, so therefore if I move to another position I’ll already know what I’m doing. I’ll have already learned it from playing center.”
Golson and Braden Smith both heaped praise on new center Casey Dunn.
"He played really well," Golson said. "He communicated great, and we got hats on hats most of the night.”
For the defense, starters Javaris Davis and Tre’ Williams were held out of the game. Auburn’s defense held Missouri’s offense to 340 yards and forced four turnovers with Davis and Williams out. Carlton Davis had an interception and the defense recovered three fumbles.
“I've been banged up since Clemson," Williams said. "I toughed it out against Mercer and the coaches decided to sit me out against Missouri. I am going to keep rehabbing and we will see how it goes this week.”
The senior did say his injury had to do with the upper half of his body. After routine execution against Mizzou, Williams was high on the linebacking unit’s performance.
“They had a great performance," Williams said. "We have depth to where we don’t miss a beat when someone is out.”
Running back Kamryn Pettway was held out Saturday night as well. Kerryon Johnson returned from injury to replace the big bruiser however, tying the 2017 FBS high for touchdowns in a single game with five. Williams was pleased with the offense’s breakthrough.
“It was a great feeling watching them," Williams said. "I knew they’d come out and play ball. It was great to watch. I was on the sideline telling them that we would get them the ball back.”
Coming off a dominating performance, Auburn has no time to rest. Auburn is facing a ranked Mississippi State opponent at home next weekend and Smith thinks the Missouri game is just what the Tigers needed.
“We needed that game to propel us in the right direction," Smith said. "We still have a lot of work to do. It was nice to get that first SEC win though. It was a road win and those are hard to come by.”