COLUMBIA, Mo. — For the first time this season, Auburn football’s defensive players got to watch their offensive teammates do the same thing they’ve been doing — getting off to a fast start.
“You know, playing fast … and hitting them in the mouth from the beginning,” sophomore defensive end Marlon Davidson said after Auburn’s 51-14 win over Missouri.
After Auburn’s defense forced a quick three-and-out on the game’s first drive, the offense marched down the field for a touchdown in just 2 minutes and 10 seconds. The Auburn offense grabbed another score after the defense forced an interception in Missouri territory, and it only punted once in the first half of what would be a blowout victory.
“We talked about how we needed to play up to our potential,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We talked about how we needed to play as a team and play good in all three phases. I think we did that.”
Auburn’s offense struggled to find consistency and rhythm in the first three weeks of the season. The Tigers weren’t clean on offense in a rout of Georgia Southern in Week 1. They put up the fewest yards in Malzahn’s college career in Week 2 at Clemson. In Week 3, they turned it over five times against Mercer, an FCS team.
But Auburn’s offense had its best performance of the young season Saturday night in Missouri. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham hit several deep balls, and a solid rotation of running backs averaged 5 yards per carry against a talented Missouri defensive front.
“Shoot, that means a lot,” Davidson said. “We didn’t have those the first couple of games. Just to see [the offense] have a breakout game, that’s impressive. Just let that game carry over to the next game and the next game after that.”
Instead of Auburn’s defense bailing out the offense or buying enough time to build a substantial lead, the two units played off of each other at Missouri. The Tigers were moving the ball efficiently on offense, and they were creating big hits and turnovers on defense.
“It amped us up even more, because we’re already turned up,” senior safety Tray Matthews said. “But when they’re scoring and having fun, it just brings us to another level. It’ll get scary, now that the offense, they’re doing big things now.”
Even when Auburn’s defense had some issues against Missouri’s explosive attack — the Tigers allowed a season-high 340 yards at Faurot Field on Saturday night — the offense didn’t let its teammates stay down.
For the first time all year, Auburn had a balanced effort in an impressive win, which players said would go a long way for everybody on the roster.
“It just does so much for our confidence,” Auburn sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Dinson said. “We’ve just got to get our swagger back. It was a big win.”
It was a complete win for an Auburn team that hadn’t had one since its six-game winning streak in the middle of last season.
Neither unit had to carry the other one to a win Saturday night, executing Malzahn’s ultimate goal heading into the SEC schedule.
“Malzahn preached on that all week,” Matthews said. “Let’s have a complete game — offense, defense and special teams. We completed the mission.”