Auburn football: Emphasis on run game will lead to lots of rushing yards Saturday

Kam Martin picks up yards against Washington on Saturday in the season opener. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kam Martin picks up yards against Washington on Saturday in the season opener. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Auburn football team won a big game last week and moved up to No. 7 in the polls. But the 21-16 win against Washington wasn’t a perfect performance.

Far from it.

And there’s one area you can expect Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will emphasize Saturday against FCS opponent Alabama State: the run game.

It’s odd having to scroll all the way down to No. 83 to find Auburn in the team rushing rankings. But that’s what happens when you play one game against an elite defense. And that’s why we fully expect the Auburn football team to run, run and run some more in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night.

In his opening statement with reporters Tuesday, Malzahn said: “What really stood out to me is we’ve got to run the football better.”

In other words: Auburn is going to run the ball better and that process begins Saturday.

Related Story. RB battle or multiple backfield weapons for Auburn?. light

You can bet that last season’s rushing performances in Week 2 and Week 3 haven’t been forgotten. In the loss to Clemson, the Tigers managed just 42 yards on 38 carries (11 sacks didn’t help). The next week against Mercer from the FCS, Auburn was better, but not by a lot. The Tigers ran for 146 yards on 43 carries — a 3.4 yards per carry average. That was not what Malzahn was expecting from his team.

After the Clemson game, Malzahn said:

"“That was too many sacks, but we have to be able to run the football a little better, too. We can’t be in as many obvious passing situations.”"

After the Mercer win, Malzahn said:

"“We’ve got to run the football better. You look at it and its 43 rushes and 146 yards. We have to run the ball better. We’ve got to solve that one.”"

Here’s betting that we aren’t hearing similar comments from Malzahn in his post-game press conference Saturday night. Here are several reasons we expect this weekend to be different:

  1. Auburn ran 45 times for 147 yards against the sixth-ranked Huskies. Only three teams topped that mark last year against Washington, which returned nine starters on defense.
  2. Last season, Kam Pettway was the only running back to carry the ball against Clemson and Mercer. With Kerryon Johnson recovering from injury, Pettway was the lone option and he wasn’t 100 percent, either. This year’s team is not that limited. Kam Martin carried the ball 22 times last week, JaTarvious Whitlow had eight runs and Shaun Shivers carried it once. Look for Auburn to run the ball 50-plus times with at least four running backs getting multiple carries Saturday.
  3. This Auburn football team is different. The last two seasons the Tigers experienced losses (both to Clemson) in Week 1 in 2016 and in Week 2 last season. Auburn is coming off a top-10 victory, has an offensive line eager to prove it’s not the team’s weak spot and running backs stacked up ready for an opportunity.

Next. Our Week 2 wish list for Auburn football. dark

Our prediction: Auburn averages at least six yards per carry and tops the 300-yard rushing mark. There’s no sense in revealing parts of the offense it doesn’t need, especially with LSU looming the following week.