AUBURN, Ala. — Following Auburn’s loss to then-No. 2 Clemson in its home opener Sept. 3, fans began expressing qualms about Carl Lawson.
The junior assisted on 3 total tackles, and though he hurried opposing quarterback Deshaun Watson twice, the heralded defensive lineman failed to record a sack.
Still, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele promised the numbers would come. Lawson’s teammates voiced belief in their captain.
“He’s just one of those great players,” sophomore linebacker Darrell Williams said at the end of September. “People are talking about how he hasn’t had the numbers, hasn’t been producing, but big-time players step up in big-time games.”
And as the season has unfolded, Lawson has taken the lead at exactly the right moment.
The Georgia native produced one of the most productive games of his career on the Plains on Saturday night, helping Auburn bulldoze Arkansas, 56-3. The Tigers held the Razorbacks to 25 total rushing yards (SEC top rusher Rawleigh Williams III only had 22) — the fewest by an Auburn opponent since 2005.
Lawson and senior Montravius Adams sacked Austin Allen in the first quarter, but Lawson — tied with Alabama’s Tim Williams for second in sacks in the SEC — terrorized the Arkansas quarterback for the rest of the game.
At the end of the blowout, Lawson had recorded 2 tackles (one for loss) but amassed a total of 7 quarterback hurries. It didn’t stop there.
“I know one of the other sacks that happened, happened because of what Carl did,” Steele said. “So, he was very productive for the snaps he had.”
Despite the unofficial numbers, Adams wasn’t sure if the matchup could be identified as Lawson’s best performance — at least for now.
“I feel like every week he comes out, it’s going to be a better game,” Adams said. “And that’s how coach Steele wants us to play as a defense, just to improve every week. So, if that was his best game, that means next week is going to be better and the week after that is going to be better. So, really, I don’t know if it was his best game, but I just want him to keep doing as good as he’s doing.”
So far this season, Lawson has followed his coordinator’s orders. In the Tigers’ win over LSU, Lawson had 4 tackles, 3 quarterback hurries and 2 sacks, including one at a critical point in the chaotic fourth quarter. He had another striking game against Louisiana-Monroe before registering 2 more sacks and forcing a fumble on Auburn’s trip to Starkville.
Now, the only individuals with worries are opponents waiting to play the Tigers.
“I feel like he’s been in his rhythm; it was just like a second or two seconds off,” Adams said. “I feel like he’s always been there, I mean, he was getting the pressures, but now he’s there all the time.”