With injuries piling up for Auburn, players have had to step up. Freshman Tank Bigsby and junior Zakoby McClain are doing just that.
On offense, running back Tank Bigsby is doing it all. Making only his second career college start against Arkansas, Bigsby put up 146 rushing yards on 20 caries setting career highs in both.
During the game's final drive, Bigsby carried the ball three times for 17 yards and caught an eight-yard pass that would set up Anders Carlson for the game-winning field goal.
According to Pro Football Focus, against the Razorbacks, Bigsby broke 14 tackles on rushing attempts, which is the most in college football since 2014.
“What has impressed me is just his physicality and determination,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “But one thing he’s doing is he’s bringing the wood. He’s running angry with great physicality and with great effort.”
In the Tigers' first game of the year against Kentucky, Bigsby saw limited action. Against Georgia, Bigsby led the team in both rushing and receiving, totaling 31 yards on the ground and 68 yards through the air.
In his most recent outing against Arkansas, Bigsby returned four kickoffs for 104 yards. His 268 total yards of offense were the most by an Auburn player since Tre Mason in 2013.
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With the potentially season-ending surgery for senior linebacker and defensive leader K.J. Britt, McClain has a humongous role to fill.
In 2019, McClain was fourth on the team with 55 tackles and had a 100-yard pick-six in the Iron Bowl.
This season, McClain has had to move around, alongside Owen Pappoe, to fill the hole left by Britt. In the team’s first game without Britt, McClain was the leading tackler with 13, adding two quarterback pressures.
“He’s a big-time linebacker,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a great nose for the ball. He can defeat blocks, he’s got great effort and can play sideline-to-sideline. We’re in great shape with him.”
On what ended up being Arkansas’s final drive of the game, McClain held his own against Arkansas quarterback Felipe Franks. The Razorbacks had to convert a third-and-12, but McClain stopped the scrambling Franks eight yards short of the line, forcing a punt. That punt set up the drive that won Auburn the game.
“[Zakoby's] a super human being," Malzahn said. "He’s got a great heart. He’s got a great spirit about him. He loves football. He is a football player with a capital ‘F.’ He loves the physicality. He’s an Auburn football player. He’s tough. So, he’s a lot of fun to coach.”
Both McClain and Bigsby were awarded helmet stickers by the Auburn coaching staff on Sunday, signifying them as invaluable players on their respective sides of the ball against Arkansas.
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