Kam Martin's season has been anything but expected.
Martin saw his carries decline as the year progressed, falling behind JaTarvious Whitlow, Shaun Shivers and Malik Miller before being sidelined with an ankle injury at the end of the Ole Miss game.
Since then, Auburn had a bye week and two games, both of which Martin did not play in. But against Liberty, Martin flashed the talent most expected of the junior in the preseason.
In Auburn's 53-0 shutout of Liberty on Saturday, Martin ran for 116 yards on 17 carries, his first 100-yard game of the season.
The game was Martin's best on the ground since last season's opener against Georgia Southern, when he ran for 136 yards, and was his third 100-yard outing since arriving on The Plains in 2016.
"I thought Kam did a great job," Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. "Obviously, I know Kam really, really well and I know what he is capable of and what he did tonight doesn't surprise me one bit. So, I was super happy for him, and you know the offensive line did a great job getting holes for him to run through."
Malzahn said it was Martin's first game fully healthy since before Ole Miss, and he wanted to carve out a prominent role for the junior.
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"Yeah, I just thought to give Kam an opportunity to go out there and do his thing," Malzahn said. "I thought he ran well. He protected the football, you know he's been a little banged up the last few weeks, and so I wanted to start him out and give him an opportunity to show what he can do, and he did a good job."
Seventeen rushes were the most he's had in a game this season since carrying the pigskin 24 times against Southern Miss.
“It felt good," Martin said of his game. "I just been grinding and working hard. That’s all I can do, and everything else is going to take care of itself. I’m a team guy, and I’m just going to keep working hard and do whatever it takes for the team.”
Overall, Auburn finished with a total of 340 rushing yards this game as every running back saw action.
Auburn will need another total team effort next week as the Tigers head to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama.
Auburn is currently the last team to beat Alabama and will need Martin and the rest of the offense to have another big day, like today, for the Tigers to be successful in this year's installment of The Iron Bowl.
For now, though the Tigers are still celebrating the win over Liberty and the final home game for the seniors. For Martin, a frustrating season now has a big bright spot after today's game.
“Every week, man, you know, I just go back to the lab and keep grinding," Martin said. "That’s all I can do. I’m a warrior. I’m a champion. I’m just going to keep getting better. I go to work each and every day and just grind. That’s what it’s all about.”
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