AUBURN, Ala. — After Auburn’s homecoming win over Louisiana-Monroe, the Tigers started preparing for something they’ve yet to encounter this season: a road game. The first road stop will be Saturday in Starkville, Miss., for what is always a tough matchup against Mississippi State (noon ET, SEC Network).
Dan Mullen’s team (2-2) has struggled this year, but the loud and chaotic environment in Stark Vegas could be a challenge if Auburn lets it rattle them. The cowbells will be clanging and Auburn will need masterful defensive play from DT Montravius Adams, a spark on offense from FB Chandler Cox and consistency from C Xavier Dampeer to return to the Plains with a road win.
Here’s how the trio could play a key role against Mississippi State:
Senior DT Montravius Adams
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn said recently that Adams is playing his best football, and the coach isn’t wrong. Adams recorded a sack and blocked a ULM field-goal attempt in last Saturday’s win. On the season, the senior has 15 total tackles (4 for a loss), 2.5 sacks, and 6 quarterback hurries.
Adams’ play is important, but his leadership in Auburn’s first road test is going to be even more significant. The game is early and the defense could quiet a rowdy crowd with some big plays early. With so many underclassmen playing quality minutes on defense, Adams needs to make sure his cool, calm demeanor is contagious. It’s unlikely Adams will mess up, but the captain has to ensure everyone else does his job.
Sophomore FB Chandler Cox
At the beginning of the season, it looked like Chandler Cox was going to get his shot at running back. That prospect doesn’t seem as likely anymore with the strong running from Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. On paper it looks like Cox has done virtually nothing. He’s recorded only 6 rushing yards through Auburn’s first five games.
What Cox brings to the table, however, isn’t exactly going to earn him stat-sheet glory. The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Cox has opened the way for several big rushing plays with huge, physical blocks. Malzahn said for the Tigers to be successful in the red zone, they must effectively run the ball. That’s more true on the road. Auburn has to run the ball and produce touchdowns early and if possible, often. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee also has voiced confidence that Cox can be a threat in the backfield if necessary. With Pettway’s bruised quad being an issue, Cox could get his chance to carry the ball. When that time comes, he has to be productive.
C Xavier Dampeer
Xavier Dampeer probably could have played against ULM despite a leg injury, but the Sun Belt matchup presented Auburn coaches with the chance to rest him and make sure he is healthy to take on Mississippi State. The offensive line seemed to improve communication after Auburn’s first couple of games, but it can’t take steps backward on the road. It will be key for Dampeer to return to his starting role with no missteps. If whatever his injury is continues to be a problem (Malzahn said the center basically played on one leg against LSU), Dampeer needs to step aside and let Austin Golson take over at center like he did vs. ULM.