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Establishing Tempo, Keeping Guys Fresh Were Key in Auburn's Win

Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee with Head Coach Gus Malzahn (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)

Auburn football’s mission last week at practice, was to improve themselves from week one, to week two. Auburn did just that in their 51-14 win over Arkansas State last Saturday.

The Tigers improved mostly on offense. They went from a team struggling to find rhythm and tempo, to a team that posted the highest total yards since 2013. It started mostly with finding a stable quarterback in Sean White. The contribution to the yard total was found all around. Many new receivers made catches, including Tony Stevens, and the rushing game was solid thanks to the fresh legs of Kamryn Pettway, Malik Miller, and John Franklin III.

“We did a lot of really good things.” Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said of the offense’s performance against Arkansas State during his press conference on Sunday. “I was pleased with the way our tempo played. Getting upwards of 85-90 plays is a plus. I think that really helped us, especially in the running game.”

Lashlee spoke more on the game against Arkansas State, as well as looked ahead to the upcoming Texas A&M game on Saturday.

What Really Got the Offense Going on Saturday night?

Auburn was able to post 706 total yards of offense, which is the most since the Western Carolina game of 2013. Sean White had a great game, many players gained experience, but what was it that seemed to get the ball rolling for Auburn? According to Lashlee, the first touchdown of the night. On a third down play in the first quarter, Sean White found himself in trouble. He would ultimately lateral the ball to running back Kerryon Johnson, and he would rush opposite field for a score. Lashlee also mentioned that he was pleased with Tony Stevens and Kamryn Pettway’s performance.

On Sean White:

Lashlee went on to further his thoughts on the amazing run from Johnson to give Auburn their first touchdown of the night, but this time, he focused on Sean White’s “blocking” ability. “You’d much rather say “whoa!” than “sic em!” Lashlee said of White’s decision to block for Kerryon Johnson on that play. But Lashlee did praise White’s toughness, and that the first touchdown play exhibited that. What did White do well on Saturday night? Trust his instincts. Lashlee believes that White’s confidence has grown, which has allowed him to make plays with his feet.

The offensive line’s performance:

One aspect of the Clemson loss, was offensive line play. Despite being the “oldest” offensive group, many of the lineman either had to be moved to another spot, or have not had the experience. The performance against Clemson got better as the game went on. On Saturday, against Arkansas State, they gelled with the rest of the offense. “They improved. They played much better. We were more physical, we had more knockdowns, we had what Coach (Herb) Hand calls “intimidation blocks”, we drove some guys. We played better in pass protection. We still can be better against the opponents that we are about to face (Texas A&M, LSU). We have to continue to improve.”

On Tony Stevens:

Despite not recording a catch against Clemson, wide receiver Tony Stevens led Auburn’s receiving corp with 4 catches and 75 yards, with two touchdowns on Saturday night. What really impressed Lashlee about Stevens? What he did without the ball. “His effort was good, he was trying to be physical. He was trying to play with good effort.”

Kyle Davis and the rest of the receiving unit:

Auburn provided a few “Sportscenter Top 10” plays during the Arkansas State game, including the number 2 play of the night, when Kyle Davis reeled in a pass, with only one hand, during the first quarter. That play would ultimately set up a Kerryon Johnson keeper to give Auburn its’ second touchdown of the night. “I like that catch the most” said Lashlee of Davis, who has shown maturity in his short tenure at Auburn. “He caught the ball, he popped up, handed the ball to the official, and acted like he had been there before. He’s a guy that just goes out and plays. The moment is not too big to make a big play. He has made one in each of the first two games, hopefully we can continue that trend. With Stevens big night, Davis continuing to make clutch plays, and Will Hastings stepping out as a darkhorse, who is the “superstar” of the unit according to Lashlee? “I don’t know who the star is going to be, there may not even be one. It could be a different guy each week, and that’s fine.” Lashlee likes how his receivers play as a team, and that will play a role in how the season will turn out for the Tigers. Lashlee also mentioned that he is looking for more ways to use Darius Slayton as the season goes.

On younger players gaining experience:

“The best thing is, is that we just let those guys play.” Lashlee said of players such as Malik Miller and Kam Martin, who saw their first field opportunities on Saturday night. The overall flow of the game was to keep the receivers as a rolling unit. Following the game, Lashlee looked at the numbers, and saw where players such as Tony Stevens and Darius Slayton only played in the area of 50 snaps, which was the most of the receivers. Auburn also played more receivers in the game vs Arkansas State than any other game during the Malzahn/Lashlee era. When asked about the rotation, Lashlee says that it’s all about keeping the legs fresh, and to allow younger, inexperienced players the chance to earn that valued experience, which will help win games late in the season.

On Texas A&M:

The oddity about this game, is that the road team has won each meeting since the Aggies entered the conference in 2012. This season, the game is at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and Auburn is looking to end the trend. “They are a powerful, explosive offense. On defense, they have arguably the best combination of pass rushers there are. They have a phenomenal defensive coordinator (John Chavis). They are going to have a great plan. It’s all going to come down to who can make the plays. We have to make the same jump from week two to week three, than we did from week one to week two.”

Auburn hosts Texas A&M this Saturday at 6:00PM inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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