War Eagle Extra

#PettwayforHeisman? Auburn players and coaches push running back as nation’s best

Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway, No. 36, carries the ball against Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway, No. 36, carries the ball against Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. AP

Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl put up Kamryn Pettway’s name for president with a tweet Saturday night.

Fellow Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson had a more realistic proposition.

“#PettwayForHeisman,” Johnson tweeted.

The tweet received more than 600 retweets in the seven hours following Auburn’s 40-29 win over Ole Miss.

It’s easy to understand why Auburn fans are enthusiastically supporting the idea considering Pettway had a career night — a phrase that’s been on repeat for three straight weeks – with 30 carries for 236 yards and a touchdown.

It was the most productive day on the ground for an Auburn running back since Tre Mason ran for 304 yards in the 2013 SEC Championship game against Missouri.

Pettway summed up his night in a post-game interview with SEC Network sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung.

“Nobody really wanted to tackle me,” Pettway said.

Pettway has a ways to go if he wants to become a legitimate Heisman candidate, but the idea isn’t as farfetched as it seems considering his recent production.

"Kamryn Pettway is starting to establish himself as one of the top guys in the country,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s getting better every time out.”

The sophomore’s 96 carries for 597 yards is the second most productive three-game stretch for an Auburn running back in the last decade.

Mason carried the ball 109 times for 663 yards in the final three games of the 2013 season, but that was over a two-month period thanks to the Tigers’ run to the National Title game.

Pettway’s first 200-yard performance gave him claim to the SEC’s leading rusher title and his 933 yards ranks 11th nationally.

While most of the top running backs in the country have played eight games, Pettway missed a game with a hamstring injury and didn’t have a carry in Auburn’s season-opening loss to Clemson.

The Prattville alum’s 133.3 yards per game is seventh best in college football.

“That’s just the performances I expect out of him now,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “He’s a load and loves to run the football hard and physical, and it’s hard for people to tackle him. If he keeps that up we’ll go very far.”

It could be hard for Pettway to keep up the torrid pace given the physical toll of carrying the ball 30 times a game and the number of competing weapons in Auburn’s backfield, but his punishing style is what offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is starting to build his game plan around.

"Our plan was to run the football and we really wanted to eventually try to wear them down," Malzahn said. "We felt like if we fed him enough we'd have a chance to do that.”

The 6-foot-0, 240-pounder’s intimidating reputation won’t hurt his chances either.

“When you see Pettway coming at you it strikes fear in defenders,” Johnson said. “Obviously he’s just running the ball hard and he’s keeping his feet moving and getting a lot of yards.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra