Johnson rushes for 204 yards as No. 12 Auburn beats Ole Miss
Kerryon Johnson insists he is not fully recovered from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss two games earlier this season.
His production on Saturday appears to indicate otherwise.
The Auburn junior rushed for a career-high 204 yards and scored three touchdowns to help the No. 12 Tigers roll to a 44-23 victory over Mississippi on Saturday in SEC play at Auburn, Ala.
Johnson scored on runs of 17, 48 and 5 yards while leading the Tigers (5-1, 3-0) to their fourth consecutive victory.
Johnson has rushed for 11 touchdowns over the past three games and continues to pick up the slack with fellow junior backfield partner Kamryn Pettway dealing with an ankle injury.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn held Pettway out of the contest but fully unleashed Johnson to the tune of a 28-carry day.
“The thing about Kerryon is he is one of the toughest guys we have,” Malzahn said. “I don’t know of a whole lot of players who Week 1 will be running for a touchdown and pull a hamstring bad enough where they got to go down, and to be able to come back two weeks later to be playing at the high level he is right now.
“It says a lot about him. We’ll get him 100 percent here in the near future and I like the way he is playing right now.”
Johnson said he is 95 percent recovered.
“This is the best I felt in a while and I think it really showed today,” Johnson said.
Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 14 of 21 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. Junior Ryan Davis (75-yarder) and sophomore Darius Slayton (19-yarder) caught the scoring passes.
Auburn senior Daniel Carlson connected on three field goals, and his 35-yarder with 6:42 remaining made him the all-time leading scorer in SEC history with 413 career points. He passed Blair Walsh, who had 412 for Georgia from 2008-11.
Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson passed for 346 yards and two touchdowns, both to redshirt freshman receiver D.K. Metcalf. Sophomore wideout A.J. Brown caught 10 passes for 109 yards but the Rebels (2-3, 0-2) had issues on defense and allowed 561 yards while losing their third straight game.
Ole Miss really wasn’t even in the contest after falling behind 35-3 at halftime. And the list of things needing to be fixed is long.
“We have to not give up explosive plays, we can’t miss tackles,” Rebels interim coach Matt Luke said. “When we get in the red zone, we’ve got to find a way to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals. That’s where we’re at right now. That’s what we’ve got to do.
“Just gaining confidence, playing with an edge, not out there playing tentative, hoping you’re doing the right thing. But playing knowing you’re doing the right thing and being aggressive. That’s what we need to improve on.”
The contest marked the first time Auburn allowed more than 14 points this season. The Tigers entered as the only FBS school that could make that claim.
Johnson got the Tigers on the board with a 17-yard run midway through the first quarter. Ole Miss followed with a 27-yard field goal from senior Gary Wunderlich with 4:19 remaining, but Auburn struck on its next offensive play when Stidham teamed with Davis on a screen pass, who picked up a couple of timely blocks en route to a 75-yard scoring play to make it 14-3 with 4:04 left in the quarter.
Stidham connected with Slayton on a 19-yard touchdown pass seven seconds into the second quarter. Johnson tacked on the 48-yard scoring jaunt to make it 28-3 and added the 5-yard touchdown run with 6:38 left in the half.
The Rebels found the end zone for the first time on Patterson’s 9-yard scoring pass to Metcalf with 13:53 left in the third quarter to end an eight-quarter touchdown drought. The duo teamed up again with a 8-yarder with 12:27 remaining in the game to cut the Ole Miss deficit to 41-17.
“We really made a statement that we wanted to finish the game, whether we win or lose, with a good vibe coming out of the game,” Patterson said. “I think offensively we were rolling. I think we feel a lot better than we did last week coming out of the second half, so we’ll look to build on that momentum.”
Carlson followed with his historic field goal to boost the margin to 27. He also made field goals from 49 and 25 yards.
The Tigers have scored 40 or more points in three straight SEC games for the first time in school history. Auburn had good balance against the Rebels with 326 rushing yards and 235 through the air.
“We’re starting to have a lot of confidence all the way around from the backfield to up front and out wide,” Stidham said. “I think we’re starting to click at the right time.”
NOTES: Junior RB Kamryn Pettway (ankle) has played in just three of Auburn’s six games. ... The Rebels have been outscored 110-26 the past two weeks, beginning with a 66-3 loss to top-ranked Alabama. ... Tigers junior RB Kerryon Johnson now has six multi-touchdown games in his career, including each of the past three contests. ... Ole Miss senior K Gary Wunderlich departed after he aggravated a hamstring injury. ... Auburn is 15-3 at home versus Ole Miss. ... Rebels sophomore QB Shea Patterson topped 300 yards passing for the fourth time in five games this season.