War Eagle Extra

Burns' runs give Tigers extra options

Kodi Burns woke up Sunday morning feeling sore. Really sore.

The Auburn quarterback still felt every tackle from his 13-carry, 158-yard rushing effort Saturday in a 37-20 win against Tennessee-Martin.

The thought of getting that many carries in the Tigers' final two games against Georgia and Alabama isn't enticing.

“Those are some big boys, so I don't know,” he said.

Finding the right moments to use Burns' running ability will be one of Auburn's biggest issues heading into Saturday's matchup with No. 10 Georgia (8-2, 5-2 SEC) at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Since taking over the starting job four games ago, Burns has 52 carries for 299 yards and four touchdowns, giving the Tigers (5-5, 2-4) an element they didn't have when the less-mobile Chris Todd was the starter.

Burns had a career day running the ball against UT-Martin, the best by an Auburn quarterback in 34 years.

He scored on runs of 31 and 58 yards in the second half to energize a lethargic Tigers offense that had trouble putting away the pesky Skyhawks, a Football Championship Subdivision team.

“He's not a blazing fast guy,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. “He's rather quick; he's strong. He knows how to run the ball. He looks like another running back carrying the ball.”

Most of the runs were by design, similar to many of the single-wing formations that are gaining popularity at all levels of football. Their success stems from the quarterback staying in the equation on a running play, giving the offense an extra blocker.

Downfield blocks from running backs and receivers keyed a few of Burns' runs Saturday.

“The guys were just hats on hats, and that opened up the lanes,” Burns said.

Burns' running ability prevents a defense from going all out with its pass rush.

“They're not just running up the field,” Tuberville said. “Him running like that gives (us) a better chance to have a second or two more to throw the ball down the field.”

Defenses sometimes will commit a linebacker to spy the quarterback, a look Burns hasn't seen this year, but that takes a defender out of pass coverage. In that case, Burns could go to the air more like he did two weeks ago against Mississippi, when he threw for a career-high 319 yards in a loss.

But Burns already has said he will be less inclined to run this week against a Georgia defense that is bigger, faster and more physical than the lower-division one he faced last Saturday.

Tuberville has spoken with his quarterback about protecting himself more at the end of runs. Against UT-Martin, Burns rarely went to the ground voluntarily.

“You don't want him going headfirst, but (Saturday) he looked like a running back going down the field,” Tuberville said. “He wasn't going to go down. He broke arm tackles, and that's what we saw of him when he was in high school."

“I know when to slide, and I know when to keep going,” Burns said. “I'm a pretty physical guy. I'm about 210 pounds, so I can take a few licks.”

The temptation to call Burns' number will be there. Although the Bulldogs won 42-38 at Kentucky last week, they struggled to contain a comparable quarterback, Randall Cobb, who ran for 82 yards and three scores.

A week earlier, Georgia gave up three rushing touchdowns to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

All of that bodes well for Auburn this week — if it uses Burns judiciously.

“I will run," Burns said. "That's part of what I do. We'll pick and choose when the time that I need to do that is.”