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No touchdown, no problem: Auburn QB Sean White owns starting spot

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Sean White is ready to get back to work.

Shortly after leading his team to a 30-27 win over Kentucky Thursday night, an animated White spoke to the media expressing an eagerness to break down tape of the victory.

“I want to go dissect the film in every way possible,” White said.

Despite throwing for a career-best 255 yards, and giving the passing game an added spark with four explosive plays, White focused mostly on the throws he wanted back.

White nodded as a reporter asked if he wanted a do-over on a pass he overthrew to an open Tony Stevens at the end of the first half. A little more touch on the throw, and it would have been an easy touchdown for Auburn.

Stevens made the leaping grab, but White’s throw forced his wide receiver to the corner of the end zone where he landed out of bounds.

“I knew we needed a touchdown or first down, I couldn’t throw it behind the sticks and I couldn’t take a sack,” White said. “I kind of looked to my right a little bit, he just flashed (across). I didn’t panic, but I hurried it a little bit and I wish I could have it back.”

The attitude will serve White well as he works to prove he should be Auburn’s starter at quarterback for the rest of the season.

Coach Gus Malzahn announced the redshirt freshman was getting the nod shortly before Thursday night’s kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium.

Malzahn talked briefly with the team’s official website to announce that White beat out Jeremy Johnson during the bye week for the top spot. The Tigers coach sees White getting “more and more comfortable” in the team’s offense with each start.

Johnson turned the ball over seven times, six interceptions, and the coaching staff was worried about his confidence level.

After Johnson struggled during the first three weeks of the season, White stepped into the role against Mississippi State.

Auburn reevaluated the position during the bye week, but decided against making a change.

In his post-game press conference Malzahn reiterated White won the job because the coaching staff believed he gave the Tigers the “best chance of winning.”

White’s elevated play was evident early in Thursday night’s win. He was a combined 5 of 8 for 100 yards on Auburn’s first two drives that both ended with touchdowns.  

Outside of a forgettable third quarter, it was easily the offense’s most well-rounded performance of the season. The Tigers had a season-high 407 total yards of offense, averaged 15 yards per completion, finished 11 of 18 on third down and didn’t turn the ball over.

“That’s our offense right there, big plays and being able to run the ball,” Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis said. “When we do that we have great success.”

White was quick to credit that success to Louis, who had a career-high 154 receiving yards, and the Tigers’ offensive line.

Kentucky only knocked White down two times in the pocket, one sack and one quarterback hit.

 “We played physical, aggressive, and were attacking,” White said. “I was really proud of the offensive line there was very few times I had to deal with pressure. They just did a good job of giving me time.”

Malzahn hasn’t made next week’s starter official, but he might have tipped his hand a bit when he admitted White “never did anything to lose the job.”

“It looked like an Auburn offense for the first time this year,” Malzahn added, a good sign for White’s future as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.  

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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