On Saturday night, the Auburn Tigers kept to their winning ways by defeating the Southern Miss Golden Eagles 24-13. They have now improved to 4-1 on the season. It was a night that was highlighted by an over two-hour weather delay that stretched the game out to six hours.
Offense Still Struggling
Coming off the worst running performance in over a decade, the rushing attack was not much better. Auburn tallied a total of 96 yards on 36 attempts for a 2.7 yards per carry. It was not a help that JaTarvious Whitlow was injured midway through the second quarter with an upper-body injury. He did seem to be favoring his shoulder as he left the field. Whitlow had 23 yards on four carries before the injury. The Tigers were led by Kam Martin with 90 yards on 24 carries.
The passing game had its moments but lacked to maintain any consistency in the game. Coming into this week, Auburn was last in the SEC when involving big plays. Auburn would get a 46-yard touchdown reception by Seth Williams in the first quarter, and a 53-yard catch by Darius Slayton in the third that would set up an eventual score.
Once again, the struggles, or lack of consistency, has to be pointed one direction — the offensive line. Right now Auburn cannot open up holes for the talented backs, and there is absolutely no time for Jarrett Stidham to find open receivers. That is a big issue due to the fact that Auburn looks to hit big plays down the field. For those plays to work, the guys up front have to hold their blocks long enough or Stidham will continue to be on the run each and every game.
Speaking of Stidham, he went 19 for 33 with 245 yards and two touchdowns. That is an improvement from the previous two weeks, but still not where this team needs to be to compete with the elite teams in the SEC.
Defense Does Its Part
There is no question that the Auburn defense is one of the best in the conference and in the country. Auburn again limited its opponent in yardage and points and made it where the offense did not have to put up many points. The Tigers allowed only 45 yards on the ground and 215 through the air.
Auburn was able to intercept Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham twice. The first came in the first half when Abraham took a chance downfield and was intercepted by Jeremiah Dinson. The second came in the fourth quarter with 5:40 left when Christian Tutt made a crucial play when the Golden Eagles were at midfield and Auburn only leading 21-13. Tutt would return the ball 23 yards to the Southern Miss 25. Six plays later, Anders Carlson would connect with a 23-yard field goal to put Auburn up 24-13, and basically clinch the game with 2:00 left.
Special Teams Did Their Part
Again the special teams unit gave a top-level effort. They even got a turnover for themselves by recovering a botched punt. Unfortunately, this did not equal points for the Tigers. Punter Arryn Siposs put the Golden Eagles offense in bad field position throughout the night, including twice inside the 20. Anders Carlson went 1/2 with one getting blocked and making a 23-yard field goal.
Auburn has enjoyed being at home for the last four weeks, but will now go on their first true road game as they travel to Starkville. They did play in a neutral site game in Atlanta, but that crowd was a very heavily saturated Auburn crowd. Both Auburn and Mississippi State will be looking to figure things out on offense with both struggling. Mississippi State has scored a combined 13 points the last two weeks in losses to Kentucky and Florida. It will also be a prove it game with Auburn. The Tigers do play well at home, but winning away from Jordan Hare Stadium has been an issue under Gus Malzahn. Both teams will need the win if either wants to compete in the SEC West race at the end of the season.
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