There’s nothing like playing a team from the Sun Belt to cure an ailing Auburn offense.
Auburn has historically dominated the non-power five conference with a 24-0 all-time record, and Saturday’s homecoming match-up at Jordan-Hare Stadium against ULM was no different.
The Tigers’ offense looked nothing like the group that failed to score a touchdown in 10 of the 16 quarters it played this season in a 58-7 win. The offense put up 689 total yards and 36 first downs with eight drives going 70-yards or more (seven of them ending in touchdowns).
Many of Auburn’s offensive starters had career days without having to play into the fourth quarter. The Tigers’ backups got in on the action with names like Malik Miller, Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove all making meaningful contributions for the first time this season.
“When you start getting to the harder part of the season you have to start to get into a ryhthm,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “I feel like our offense as a whole has found a rhythm.”
Backup quarterback John Franklin III even had a chance to showcase his offensive skill set in the win.
Auburn’s day started with an 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive on its opening possession. White ended the Tigers’ red zone slump with a 3-yard touchdown run with 8:42 to go in the quarter.
“Been talking all week about having that killer instinct,” White said. “When you get in the red zone you have to make a play to get into the end zone. You got to have that killer instinct to do that. I think our offense ran with it. We felt like we needed to finish these drives.”
It was just a small preview of things to come.
White came out of the game at the end of the third quarter with 239 yards on 14 of 17 passing with three total touchdowns (two passing).
The sophomore connected with Kyle Davis for a 48-yard touchdown with 2:31 to go in the first quarter. A pair of fake handoffs helped open up the middle of the field for Davis’ first career touchdown. ULM’s defnese crashed down on the run leaving Davis without a defender in sight.
White hit a similarly wide-open Tony Stevens for a 48-yard touchdown on Auburn’s opening possession of the second half. The senior receiver waltzed into the end zone to make it 35-7.
“I get happy when he calls those plays,” White said. “I think that’s one of my strengths. I feel like I can throw it down field. When he calls those plays, I get excited and I think the whole team has confidence in it.”
Johnson went into halftime with a career-high 127 yards. It was the sophomore back’s second 100-yard rushing game this season and of his career.
With fellow starting running back Kamryn Pettway sitting out with a bruised quad, Johnson also had a career-high 24 carries before exiting the game along with White before the end of the third quarter with 146 yards.
It was the third time this season Johnson carried the ball more than 20 times, a feat he didn’t accomplish a single time during his freshman campaign.
Franklin didn’t waste any time jumping into the fun going 80-yards for a touchdown on his second snap. Once the junior college transfer made it through the defensive line, there was no one on the field who could catch him.
“The end crashed, we knew they were going to crash a lot this week, coach told me before the game — there’s going to be a chance for a big run,” Franklin said. “I been watching the ends crash all game. I was like if you crash I’m going to make you pay. He crashed and I made him pay.”
The junior threw the first touchdown pass of his career on Auburn’s next drive. Franklin hit Craig-Myers for a 39-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 56-7 with 1:08 to go in the third quarter.
“We did it today, but next week we have to do it against an SEC team,” White said.
ULM’s lone touchdown came with no time left on the clock in the first half. The Warhawks ran five plays from inside Auburn’s 10-yard line and still needed a questionable pass interference call to help them score.
Joshua Holsey was flagged on a fourth and one to give ULM a fresh set of downs at Auburn’s 2-yard line with two seconds on the clock.
ULM receiver Marcus Green made a diving catch in the end zone as time expired in the half.