BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a sports commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
It was midway through the game when I jokingly tweeted, "Who kidnapped last week's Auburn team?"
Man, what a difference (and to be frank, an inferior opponent) can make. It wasn't that the Tigers beat up on Arkansas State 51-14, it was the way they looked doing it. I could have sworn I saw glimpses of the Auburn offense of old, and the numbers bear it out. So then, let me get busy bringing you the good, the bad and the ugly from Saturday night's game:
The Good: The offense, of which I haven't seen at Auburn since Tre Mason and friends headed out, was back. The Tigers put up 706 yards, one of the highest outputs in the Malzahn regime. To compare some huge outputs of the past:
*2013 SEC Game 677 yards
*2013 vs WCU 712 yards
*2014 Iron Bowl 630 yards
*Saturday night 706 yards
Yep, the Tigers offense looked at times like the vintage HUNH offense of years past, and it started with quarterback Sean White. His numbers: 17-23, 244 yards, 3 TD's, 0 INT + 60 rushing yards. White was for the most part spot on as he played only three quarters. And how about John Franklin III? He showed Tiger fans that he will soon be a force running that read option.
Receivers Kyle Davis and Tony Stevens were superb. Stevens caught four passes for 75 yards and two scores, while Davis has already gone viral with a one-handed catch that is making Odell Beckham jealous. If the spectacular grab is not #1 on SportsCenter's Top 10 list, I say Tiger fans should boycott the network and turn to Fox Sports1.
The running game was back. After rushing for one yard in the first half last week, the Tigers rushed for 462 yards and put two players over the 100 yard mark, the first time that's happened in 2 years. Kerryon Johnson's (124 yards) spectacular TD run will be played over and over years from now, while Kamryn Pettway (154 yards) may have helped Auburn fans forget Jovon Robinson. One cannot underestimate the importance of running the ball so effectively, as Malzahn's "O" is based on the run (see the Tigers leading the SEC in rushing during the Malzahn glory years at over 300 yards per game). Will the run game remain once the guys step up to face Texas A&M? It sure would help Auburn's chances.
The play-calling was not only good, it was fun! Aside from superb efforts like the White flip to Johnson and the Davis catch, Lashlee & Malzahn ordered up a superb fake field goal as Daniel Carlson took one in for a score that was eerily reminiscent of the Damon Duval play against LSU in 2000. And Franklin showed he has some wheels, and surprise calls made the game enjoyable.
The Bad: Was there anything bad about this game? Sean White continues to struggle a bit on his touches on long throws, and the defense gave up one too many big plays, you have to wonder how that defense will deal with a Texas A&M team that plans on giving some of that hurry-up-no-huddle back to the Tigers next week. Still, there's not much to gripe about tonight in Lee County.
The Ugly: I can't see much that was ugly about this game. About the only ugly thing I can point to is the fact that Auburn's 17-game sellout streak at Jordan-Hare Stadium came to an end on Saturday- but the big win was anything but ugly for the over 86,000 fans who attended.
All week long I've been hearing "Malzahn is toast," and "there they go again." Saturday's win saw hope seeping back into the hearts of the Auburn nation. We will see if that hope remains next Saturday night.