The 6th ranked Tigers started slow, but eventually found their rhythm in a 42-14 blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday morning in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Apart from the opening drive, in which the Auburn offense drove 80 yards in nine plays for a Kerryon Johnson rushing touchdown, the Tigers were sloppy for most of the first half. It was a struggle in the second quarter until Jarrett Stidham found Darius Slayton streaking down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown pass with only 1:27 left in the half, which gave Auburn some much needed momentum going into halftime.
“At halftime, we really challenged our guys, and they finished,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “In the third quarter we played really good football, and we put the team away as we should have.”
After stopping ULM on their opening drive in the third quarter, the Tigers wasted no time extending their lead. Auburn went for 95 yards on 10 plays as Kam Martin finished the drive off with a 1-yard run, giving the Tigers a 21-7 lead.
The Auburn defense continued their stellar play of late forcing three turnovers, two of which came in the third quarter. Javaris Davis intercepted a pass at the ULM 43-yard line which led to a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kam Martin, and then forced a fumble on the next possession that was recovered by Auburn’s Nick Ruffin in ULM territory.
“Defensively I’m real proud of three turnovers and we scored a touchdown, which is always great,” Malzahn added.
After a Stidham fumble, Ruffin put the game away midway through the fourth quarter, intercepting a pass over the middle and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a convincing 35-7 lead.
Auburn totaled 552 yards on offense, with 317 of those coming on the ground. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was 18-of-24 for 235 yards through the air, with two touchdown passes and one interception.
“Offensively we were fairly balanced, but 300 yards rushing, that’s what we really need to do,” Malzahn said. “…The last two weeks we’ve had long drives and it says a lot about the character of your offense. You’ve got to be able to run the football…and then you’ve got to finish. Our guys have a lot of confidence right now.”
Kerryon Johnson led the team in rushing with 137 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown. Kam Martin rushed for 83 yards on 12 carries for one touchdown, and also caught a 41-yard touchdown pass. Darius Slayton led the team in receiving, with four receptions for 81 yards, and one touchdown.
“He (Martin) came out fresh and it was like he just shot out of a cannon,” Malzahn said. “He’s done a solid job for us all year. He really gave us a boost when he came in."
Auburn improves to 9-2 on the season, while the Warhawks fall to 4-6. The Tigers have seven days to recover ahead of the much anticipated, winner-take-all Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.
“I’m proud of our team,” Malzahn said. “Four weeks ago, if somebody would have said we would be in this positon, I don’t think there would have been many people around the country that would have believed it. “…Our players are going to be ready, our coaches are going to be ready, and this (Iron Bowl) is going to be a special game.”