Auburn coaches made the decision late Friday night to sit injured center Xavier Dampeer (leg) for a second straight week.
The staff had hoped Dampeer would be good to go for the team’s first road start of the season in Starkville, but coach Gus Malzahn didn’t think the senior was healthy enough to face Mississippi State’s imposing defensive front.
“We have a lot of confidence in Xavier, he was somewhere between 75 and 80 percent,” Malzahn said. “We knew they were going to play a lot of zero nose and a guy that weighed about 320 pounds.”
Austin Golson started for Dampeer at center and Darius James started his second straight game at left tackle. Golson said the focus was building around inside zone runs, which the lineman said worked thanks to solid execution and communication.
“It was awesome,” Golson said. “Any time we can pace them and move the ball like that and just keeping pounding and pounding cause they are a really good defense will give us a lot of momentum moving forward.”
Fellow offensive lineman Alex Kozan also gave the group high marks. The veteran of the line can’t remember the offense playing a better first half than it did on Sunday.
Auburn’s 335 total yards of offense in the half are the most since the 383 yards it put up against Alabama in 2014.
Running back Kamryn Pettway finished the game with 39 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Malzahn credited much of the success for Auburn’s strong ground game to the blocking Pettway received throughout the 38-14 win.
“We talked about needing to run the ball down hill against these guys,” Malzahn said. “It’s been real tough for teams they’ve played so far and I thought that would be the key to the game. Our offensive line really did a great job getting the push. They played a lot of odd fronts and that put a lot of pressure on our center and tackles to get movement at the point of attack to create some seems.”
Malzahn also stressed the longterm benefit of getting James extended reps with the first team line in competitive situations.
“We are developing some depth up front and that’s always great,” Malzahn said.