No. 15 Auburn crushes Missouri 51-14
No. 15 Auburn was in need of an offensive spark. Running back Kerryon Johnson delivered.
Johnson rushed for five touchdowns -- four in the first half -- and Auburn rolled past Missouri 51-14 on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
Johnson battled a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Auburn’s previous two games but started against Missouri on Saturday and added another element to coach Gus Malzahn’s offense by running out of the wildcat formation.
Johnson finished with 48 of Auburn’s 263 rushing yards. His five touchdowns were one shy of the school record set by Carnell “Cadillac” Williams in 2003.
“Our goal was to rush for over 200 yards,” Malzahn said after the win. “We were able to do that.”
Auburn thwarted a Missouri fake punt from its own 19-yard line early in the third quarter. Two plays later, Johnson scored out of the wildcat formation.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Nate Craig-Meyers on Auburn’s next drive to extend the lead 45-7.
Missouri lost its third straight game and struggled on both sides of the ball. After scoring 72 points in an opening win over Missouri State, coach Barry Odom’s Tigers have managed just 30 points in their last three games.
“I want to get one thing real straight,” Odom said after the loss. “I‘m going to win here. That will happen. We will win. This is a turnaround, whichever way you slice it or dice it.”
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw touchdown passes to Damarea Crockett and J‘Mon Moore. Sophomore receiver Johnathon Johnson caught 10 passes for 85 yards.
Auburn put together its most complete performance of an uneven first month of the season, which included a 14-6 loss at No. 2 Clemson and multiple lackluster offensive outings.
Malzahn and the offense caught heat after the loss to Clemson and a sluggish performance in an opening win over Georgia Southern. Stidham and the offense moved the ball in last week’s win over Mercer but committed five turnovers in a closer-than-expected win over an FCS opponent.
But the Tigers’ offense was sharp, balanced and explosive Saturday.
Stidham completed 13 of 17 passes for 218 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He hooked up with receiver Kyle Davis on a 58-yard completion on Auburn’s first play of the game and also threw a 46-yard completion to receiver Will Hastings.
While the offense found its groove, Auburn’s defense kept doing what it has been doing all season -- dominating.
Auburn entered the game ranked second nationally in total defense
and put together another stellar performance. The Tigers forced four turnovers.
Junior defensive back Carlton Davis had an interception off a tipped pass that led to a touchdown, and sophomore defensive lineman Marlon Davidson returned a fumble to the Missouri 20-yard line, setting up Johnson’s fourth touchdown run of the first half that put the Tigers up 28-0.
“We talked about wanting to play well in all three phases of the game,” Malzahn said. “And I think we did that.”
Johnson scored on runs of 7, 2, 1 and 1 yards in the first half.
Trailing by four touchdowns late in the second quarter, Missouri mounted its best drive of the first half. Lock hit a series of short throws before capping a 10-play drive with a well-executed screen pass to Crockett.
The drive accounted for 78 of Missouri’s 173 yards in the first half.
After going 4-8 last season, Odom is squarely on the hot seat after this year’s 1-3 start. But the second-year coach remains resilient.
“I‘m the man to go get it done, with this staff, with this team, with this program,” Odom said passionately.
Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson’s 41-yard field goal sent the visiting Tigers into halftime with a commanding 31-7 lead. Carlson, who had some early misses this season, booted three field goals in Saturday’s win.
“He’s back,” Malzahn said of his standout kicker.
So is Auburn’s offense, which finished with 482 total yards.
NOTES: Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway, an All-SEC tailback, was “not 100 percent,” according to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, and did not receive a carry. ... Saturday’s game marked the first-ever meeting between Auburn and Missouri. ... Auburn DB Carlton Davis had his fourth career interception. ... Auburn LB Jeff Holland had a fumble on a sack of Missouri QB Drew Lock in the first half.... Missouri has a bye next week, before returning to SEC play on Oct. 7 at Kentucky. ... Auburn hosts No. 17 Mississippi State next Saturday.