AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn freshman running back Kam Martin didn’t touch the ball in the first half of Saturday’s game vs. Alabama A&M, which seemed a little odd for a team injury-riddled at the running back position and playing an overmatched opponent.
Instead, a banged-up Kerryon Johnson, dealing with his own concerns, carried the ball 18 times in the first half. He found success, as he generally does, going for 108 yards and a touchdown.
But with Kamryn Pettway, Chandler Cox and Stanton Truitt all out — and defensive back Rudy Ford getting 2 carries — it raised some Martin questions. Those were quickly eliminated in the second half.
The freshman showcased his quick-twitch speed and tackle-breaking ability, as he cruised to his first-career 100-yard performance.
“Like you say, he’s lightning fast. But even (against Alabama A&M), I think his first couple carries, he broke probably three or four tackles. He’s going to run really hard. He’s going to take care of the ball,” Johnson said. “When you do those two things, good things will happen for you at the position.”
By night’s end, Martin carried the ball 21 times for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. He became the 10th player to rush for 100 or more yards in the Gus Malzahn era.
For Martin, who chose Auburn after Baylor’s debacle began, he needed that taste of the Tigers’ running-game success that has been on full display this season.
“I knew that I was going to have a big game because I’ve been working hard all week … It felt good. It felt like I was in high school again, just having fun,” Martin said. “Just when the opportunity comes, you’ve got to make something happen, so it’s just a blessing to have fun out here and get a win. It’s just a blessing to be here at Auburn.”
Martin has shown flashes already in 2016. Playing behind Pettway and Johnson, the freshman carried the ball 23 times prior to Saturday, and he accumulated for 144 yards on those touches. He also had 10-yard and 42-yard receptions to his credit.
On Saturday, he proved he could have a dominant future if given a proper workload.
“He looked like he was doing great, and he’s done well in games before,” offensive lineman Robert Leff said. “So honestly, it wasn’t all that surprising, but it was nice to see him do well.”
Pettway’s availability remains undetermined for this Saturday’s showdown with No. 1 Alabama. Johnson looks like he’s as close 100 percent as he’s been in the second half of the season. But if Martin is needed, No. 9 is prepared for his number to be called.
“Heck yeah,” Martin said. “I’m always ready.”