AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway received loads of praise after his third straight career rushing performance in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday night.
Though the sophomore appreciated his success after being doubted early in the year, he was just as pleased to have Kerryon Johnson return to the backfield.
“It really helped me a lot,” Pettway said. “I got to take a couple of breathers and he got to do his thing. I thought he played well being back off of injury.”
Johnson played for the first time since suffering an ankle injury against Mississippi State three weeks ago. The sophomore rushed for 42 yards and 2 touchdowns and caught 2 passes for 43 more yards in Auburn’s 40-29 win over the Rebels.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee used Johnson in a variety of ways.
“It was really good and he may not get the credit because you look at the stat line last night and everyone was talking about Bubba (Pettway),” Lashlee said. “And (Pettway) did great, but (Johnson) had the two touchdown runs inside the red zone, which gives us that flexibility — a guy who can catch a snap, the big wheel route on third down.”
While his longest run of the night went for 16 yards, his longest reception was a 37-yard pass from quarterback Sean White as the second quarter was winding down. The catch earned Auburn a first down, setting up the first of Daniel Carlson’s four field goals four plays later.
Johnson also hammered at Ole Miss defenders with lots of short runs, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
“He had some of the better 4, 5 and 6-yard runs last night of anybody,” Lashlee said. “He was running over guys. He was the same guy he has always been. He’s a great third-down back for us; he’s really good in pass protection. It was good to have him back, and not only have him back and play well, but get out of the game no worse for it and should be in good shape moving forward.”
The 6-foot, 211-pound Johnson, who had hopes of becoming a 1,000-yard back for the Tigers, has amassed 580 yards so far this season.
With four games remaining on the Tigers’ schedule, Lashlee is confident Johnson will take advantage of his opportunities — regardless of Pettway’s dominance.
Auburn started the year uncertain of who would take over on the ground. Now it has all of its options back, a good thing for the third-ranked rushing offense in the country.
“Having both of those guys again, obviously Kamryn is the hot hand right now,” Lashlee said. “But there are going to be plenty of times these last few games where KJ is going to do what he can do.”