September 3, 2017 / 3:48 AM / a year ago

No. 12 Auburn rolls past Georgia Southern 41-7

No. 12 Auburn rolls past Georgia Southern 41-7

Auburn wasn’t at full strength offensively, but it didn’t matter. The Tigers’ defense was plenty good.

Auburn held Georgia Southern to only 78 yards of offense and didn’t allow the visiting Eagles to convert a third down en route to a 41-7 season-opening victory Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw two touchdowns and rushed for another in his Auburn debut, and the No. 12 Tigers racked up 351 yards on the ground,despite playing without star back Kamryn Pettway and starting receiver Kyle Davis, who were both suspended.

The Tigers kept the Eagles’ offense out of the end zone, and the 78 total yards allowed were the fewest by an Auburn opponent since 1985.

Senior linebacker Tre’ Williams had 10 tackles, including two sacks, and sophomore Marlon Davidson also recorded two sacks for the Tigers.

“What stands out to me right now is our defense,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters. “Our defense was unbelievable. They were outstanding. The triple option scares you to death. Our defense got a chance to play a lot of young guys.”

Stidham, a transfer from Baylor who was his making his first start for the Tigers, completed 14 of 24 passes for 185 yards with an interception.

“He’s going to be an outstanding quarterback,” Malzahn said about Stidham. “I’ll tell you that right now.”

Malzahn did not give a reason for the suspensions of Pettway, Davis and backup quarterback Sean White, but did say Pettway and Davis would return next week against No. 5 Clemson. White will return in Week 3 against Mercer.

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson finished with 136 yards, highlighted by a 60-yard touchdown burst in the first half, but suffered a leg injury on a long run in the second quarter and did not return.

Kam Martin stepped in and also rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers.

Georgia Southern freshman quarterback Shai Werts, making his first collegiate start, went 4 of 8 for 8 yards passing.

The Tigers started slow and committed three turnovers in the first half. Auburn led only 10-7 after Georgia Southern linebacker Tomarcio Reese scooped up a fumble and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles on the board late in the first quarter.

Stidham completed only three of his first seven passes with an early interception, but the Tigers’ running game and defense had his back.

Johnson, who started in place of Pettway, gave the Tigers an early 10-0 lead on his 60-yard touchdown run, the longest of junior’s career.

He broke free on another long run and seemed to be headed for the end zone but pulled up lame, went down and limped off the field with nine minutes left in the second quarter. He did not return.

With Johnson on the sideline, Martin came in and quickly broke off a 36-yard touchdown run that put Auburn in front 24-7 late in the second quarter.

Georgia Southern managed 37 yards of offense in the first half.

With the addition of Stidham and return of Pettway and Johnson, the Tigers are expected to contend with Alabama in the SEC West.

Auburn will find out more about how good it is next week when it travels to Death Valley to take on defending national champion Clemson. The teams met last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium, with Clemson winning 19-13.

NOTES: Auburn announced shortly before kickoff that RB Kamryn Pettway, WR Kyle Davis and backup QB Sean White would not play because of suspension. Kerryon Johnson started in place of Pettway, and Darius Slayton started in place of Davis. ... The game was the second all-time meeting. Auburn beat Georgia Southern 32-17 in the 1991 season opener. ... Georgia Southern is one of the youngest teams in the nation. The quarterbacks on the roster have a combined two games of FBS experience.

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