Auburn took several key steps forward in their dominating 55-16 homecoming victory over Kent State. The Auburn offense took control of the line of scrimmage running the ball at will. Offensively, the Tigers really cleaned up their game with no turnovers, only two punts, and 633 total yards of offense. Defensively, the Tigers settled in after a slow start to rack up five sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and only allow 321 yards. Below are five takeaways from Auburn's victory.
1. Rushing attack finds rhythm
After struggling to run the football in the first half of wins over Oregon and Tulane, Auburn ran wild against Kent State from the opening quarter. At halftime, Auburn had already amassed 205 rushing yards on only 27 carries. Boobee Whitlow led three Tigers with 100 yard rushing games with 135 yards. In total, Auburn had eight players carry the ball a total of 62 times for 467 yards and six touchdowns, an average of seven and a half yards a carry. Also, no Auburn player put the ball on the ground. Both Bo Nix and Joey Gatewood were involved in the rushing attack helping keep the Golden Flashes defense honest.
2. Stove emerges as Nix’s top target
Eli Stove stepped up in Auburn’s injury bitten wide receiver corps as Bo Nix’s go to target. Stove finished the night with a team leading 88 yards on six catches and had a touchdown on a 49 yard reception off a flea flicker. Nix just missed Stove on another deep pass. Another takeaway from the passing attack was Jay Jay Wilson’s emergence. Wilson, a graduate transfer from Arizona State, caught his first three passes as an Auburn Tiger. Another positive from the night was Anthony Schwartz making his first catch of the season. Schwartz is still sporting a cast on his hand from surgery.
3. Davidson leads aggressive pass rush
Marlon Davidson recorded two and a half of Auburn's five sacks. The Tigers were able to routinely pressure both Dustin Crum and Woody Barrett throughout the night. Auburn provided this pressure with Derrick Brown only playing on the first series of the game. Brown is arguably Auburn's best defensive lineman. Brown's absence led to an increase in Tyrone Truesdell's playing time, who responded with one and a half sacks. Auburn's defensive line also helped limit Kent State to 92 rushing yards on 32 attempts an average of two point nine yards a carry.
4. Auburn's D struggles on third down
Auburn's defense entered the game as one of the nations best on third down defense. However, against the Golden Flashes Auburn struggled to get off the field on the "money down." Kent State converted their first four third down conversion attempts against the Tigers. Kent State finished the game converting 50% of their third down opportunities (nine for eighteen). This is a disturbing trend that Auburn cannot let continue next week when they visit College Station for the start of SEC play. Several of Kent State's third down conversions came on screen passes when Auburn over rushed the quarterback.
5. Auburn's offense finds its best tempo of season
For the first two games of the season, Auburn's offense seemed to struggle to find Gus Malzahn's hallmark tempo on offense. Tonight the Tigers found their tempo. Four of Auburn's first five touchdown drives were less than three minute drives. Part of their tempo success came from the ability to run the football and pick up good gains on first down.