There’s no doubt who deserved the crown in Auburn’s locker room Saturday night after a 35-21 homecoming win over San Jose State.
Running back Peyton Barber was the ‘king’ setting career highs in carries, 28; yards 147; and touchdowns, five.
It was the most scores for an Auburn running back since Cadillac Williams scored six against Mississippi State back in 2003. It was the first multi-touchdown game of Barber’s career.
In his post-game press conference, Barber said last week’s loss to Mississippi State motivated him. The offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in the coach Gus Malzahn era, a stat Barber felt personally responsible for.
“A lot of that was my fault,” Barber said. “Not getting it in from the 1-yard line, watching film of last week, there was a hole that I could have hit if I was patient enough.”
Not good enough isn’t a phrase the Georgia native accepts.
Quarterback Sean White calls Barber the “hardest-working player on the team,” and for a back that patiently waited two years for his chance, he doesn’t want to waste a single opportunity.
“Now is my time,” Barber said.
Barber found some daylight in the fourth quarter, but for much of the game he had to grind out a couple yards at a time. He made the most of the workload, and wore San Jose State down.
His 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career, and the Tigers’ longest as a team this season. Barber also had a 28-yard run on the final drive of the game, and finished the fourth with 88 yards on nine carries.
“He gets stronger as the game gets going on…” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They knew we were going to run the football. It is not just a credit to Peyton, but it is also a credit to our offensive line. They are starting to come together and they are jelling a little bit better, and starting to do some good things.”
Barber also thanked his offensive line in his post-game remarks. He said the offense is starting to make its mark as a “downhill team.”
“It was critical, we needed it,” Barber said. “It will definitely boost our spirits.”
For a coaching staff that pledges to diversify its offensive attack, Barber has made it increasingly difficult for Malzahn to go away from the sophomore for too long.
“We knew he had the chance to be a very good running back,” Malzahn said. “The thing that stands out to me about Peyton is it is very important to him. He reminds me of Cameron Artis-Payne, about the importance of the game, the team, and everything that goes with it. He shows great toughness.”