YES! College football is finally back. All the trash talking and divided homes are in full effect for the fall. Friends are now archenemies for the next five months. The SEC took a hit last year in the championship game but they proved this first week that they might be back. One of the games was Auburn verse Georgia Southern. The game was played on “The Plains” down in Auburn. There were several questions about the offense led by Baylor quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham. They were quickly answered in Auburn’s 41-7 victory. The defense was supposed to struggle with the loss of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams to the NFL. However, the defense took center stage.
The Auburn defense allowed only 78 total yards. It was the fewest yards by an opponent since 1985 when they held Ole Miss to nine total yards. The one good thing is they had a month to prepare for the triple option offense ran by Georgia Southern. It is a lot harder when you only have a few days to prepare for such an attack. There are only a handful of teams that run that type of offense. That’s why head coach Guz Malzahn was pleased with the defense. He said, “I thought it was a very good win. What stands out to me right now is our defense. Our defense was unbelievable. They were outstanding. The triple option scares you to death. Our defense got a chance to play a lot of young guys.” The defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, made sure Auburn was up for the task because they totaled five sacks and twelve tackles for a loss. Georgia Southern was 0-for-15 on third down. Tre’ Williams led Auburn’s defense with 10 tackles and two sacks. It would’ve been a shutout if it wasn’t for the offense giving up a touchdown from a sack fumble. Steele said, “It’s about us. It has nothing to do with who we play. What time we play. You get into that, you’re going to ride the roller coaster. So we don’t allow it, and we hammer it home. We challenged them to be relentless in their effort, both physically and mentally tough, and to tackle well. They really did what we asked them to do. Played very, very hard.”
The offense was superb other than that one noted blemish. With the defense stopping the run, the offense was great running the ball. Auburn averaged 6.6 yards a carry. This thanks in large part to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin. Each player rushed for a touchdown while running for 136 yards apiece. This was done without star running back Kam Pettway, who was serving a one-game suspension. Last season, he led Auburn in rushing and the SEC in yards per game last season. His addition will be huge, because Johnson injured his hamstring during the game. It is also a big asset going up against defending national champions, Clemson for the next game. “Very pleased with our guys in the run game, and the pass game, made some plays,” Malzahn said. “In both of those areas, I feel like we were balanced.” They were definitely balanced with Stidham completing 14 of 24 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. His first touchdown pass was to Ryan Davis for 19 yards. It gave Auburn a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter. He said, “As a team, I thought we did really good for the first game. Obviously, we have a stout defense. Offensively, we did some good things, did some bad things. We turned the ball over too much. We’re just going to have to get better from it.” When asked how he thought Stidham did in his first game, Malzahn said, “It was good for Jarrett to get a game under his belt. It’s been two years since he played. It was good for him to get out there with his new teammates.” Stidham will have sophomore receiver Kyle Davis for the game against Clemson. He too was suspended by Malzahn for the opening game. Davis caught 12 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns last season. He had the most yards per catch by any Auburn receiver with 20.67. Having him and Pettway for the next game could give Auburn a chance of doing the unthinkable – winning a game against Clemson in “Death Valley” at night.
For now, Auburn and the SEC can celebrate their 12-2 record over the opening weekend. The lone losses were by Texas A&M and Florida. Florida was behind the “seven ball” since they had seven of their players suspended for the game. They were also playing a potential Big Ten champion in Michigan. They loss 33-17. The Texas A&M loss was inexcusable. They were up 44-10 in the third quarter and lost in regulation 45-44 to UCLA. That should have made for a remarkable 13-1 opening day weekend for the conference. “If, if was a fifth…” Since it’s not let’s just sit back and be glad the college football season is back at it.