Riding the momentum of two straight blowout victories over Missouri and Mississippi State, Auburn extended their winning streak to four with a 44-23 victory over Ole Miss. For the third consecutive week, the Tigers jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back.
The win moved Auburn into the top 10 of the AP Poll at No. 10 heading into next week’s game at LSU.
Let’s handout some grades:
After struggling to start the season against Georgia Southern and Clemson, Jarrett Stidham is becoming the quarterback the Auburn faithful has been hoping for. Stidham was 14-for-21 with 235 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. He has completed 79.7 percent of his last 87 passes and leads the SEC in completion percentage at 71 percent. Stidham has looked much more comfortable in the pocket of late. If given time, he is able to go through his progression and find the open receiver, something he struggled with early on. Rather than rolling out with the intention to run, Stidham is keeping his eyes downfield when he leaves the pocket. Stidham’s efficiency combined with his athletic ability make him one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.
Running Backs: A+
Kerryon Johnson earned a new nickname Saturday: Mr. Touchdown. Tray Matthews gave Johnson the nickname after the Huntsville, Alabama native rushed for three more touchdowns against Ole Miss. Johnson also set a new career-high with 208 rushing yards on the day as Auburn out-gained Ole Miss 326-83 on the ground. The Tigers have averaged 277 rushing yards per game in their last three games, even with Kamryn Pettway getting just five carries in those contests. Kam Martin had 50 yards on eight carries and Malik Miller added 22 yards.
Wide Receivers: A
Ole Miss’ AJ Brown stole the show as a vertical threat, but Auburn wide receivers made the most of limited opportunities Saturday, as Stidham threw just 14 passes on the day. Stidham spread the ball around, with eight different receivers catching passes. Darius Slayton used his big 6’2” frame and made a great catch on a perfectly thrown fade route for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The Tigers mixed things up Saturday, throwing more wide receiver screens in addition to their steady diet of crossing routes. One of those screen plays went for a 75-yard touchdown, as Ryan Davis made a man miss and sped all the way to the end zone. Eli Stove had just two carries, but gained 36 yards as he continues to be a threat in the running game. It is clear that Stidham is becoming more comfortable with his receivers as the season goes along.
Offensive Line: A+
As Kerryon Johnson noted postgame, you don’t rack up over 400 yards on the ground as a team without some help from the offensive line. Johnson had a huge hole to run through and went untouched up the middle for a 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The line also did an excellent job in pass protection as Stidham was sacked just once.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: A-
They weren’t as dominant as they were the first few weeks of the season, but the defensive line still held the Rebels to just 83 yards rushing on 30 attempts. That’s 2.8 yards per carry. Auburn ranks 22nd in FBS and third in the SEC in rushing defense, holding opponents to 2.95 yards per carry. Deshaun Davis led the group with seven tackles.
Defensive Backs: C+
Ole Miss boasts one of the best receiving corps in the SEC, and they showed it Saturday. A.J. Brown had 10 receptions for 109 yards and would’ve had a touchdown had he not dropped a perfectly thrown ball while wide open on a streak. Van Jefferson racked up 89 yards and Jordan Wilkins had five catches for 66 yards out of the backfield. Shea Patterson appeared to catch the Auburn defensive backs off guard with quick throws and had 346 passing yards in all. But as head coach Gus Malzahn noted postgame, a lot of those yards came in garbage time with the Tigers’ second and third stringers on the field. There were issues with the starters as well however, as Ole Miss receivers got open early and often. Jeremiah Dinson looked a step slow in coverage all day as the Rebels had little trouble moving the ball through the air. It was their worst performance of the season as a unit, but Auburn likely won’t see an offense as high-powered as Ole Miss for the rest of the year.
Special Teams: A
Noah Igbinoghene broke a 70-yard kick return to start the second half and Daniel Carlson was 3-3 on field goals, connecting from 49, 25, and 35 yards. Those three field goals in addition to five PATs give Carlson an SEC record 413 career points. Aidan Marshall averaged 41 yards per punt and the coverage team did not allow Ole Miss to return a punt.