AUBURN, Ala. — After Daniel Carlson scored all of its points in a Week 4 upset of LSU, Auburn let its elite kicker focus mostly on his extra points and kickoffs Saturday.
Carlson got a lot of work with both as Auburn routed Louisiana-Monroe 58-7 to move above .500 for the first time in 2016. The Tigers used a strong first half on both sides of the ball and a nearly perfect third quarter to get over some of their offensive woes in what was the ideal homecoming rout.
Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) was offensively balanced throughout — 278 passing yards to 410 rushing — and got production from both strings on its depth chart.
Outside of a late first-half drive from ULM (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) that featured a questionable pass interference call and some third-down breakdowns, the Auburn defense kept its excellent start going Saturday.
Player of the game
Kerryon Johnson: 24 carries, 146 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Considering Auburn opened the game with 28 unanswered points on five drives, there wasn’t much of a turning point in this one. So let’s change out this section for a new one for the player of the game — Kerryon Johnson.
A week after delivering some punishing runs against LSU, Johnson feasted on ULM’s weak run defense before the game got too out of hand. He already had the second-best game of his career by the middle of the second quarter, and he scored multiple touchdowns for the second time this season.
With Kamryn Pettway getting the day off with the bruised quad injury he suffered against LSU, Johnson took the vast majority of the carries for Auburn from the beginning. He continues to show that he’s built for life as an every-down running back in this offense.
Could Auburn finally get back to converting red-zone trips into touchdowns?
Auburn’s coaching staff made this priority No. 1 during practices leading into the Louisiana-Monroe matchup. The Tigers entered the game with the second-worst red-zone touchdown percentage in the FBS, and they only converted 4 of their 8 red-zone trips into touchdowns in a similar blowout against Arkansas State.
But Auburn fully cashed in on four of its five opportunities inside the 20-yard line against Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers turned all 3 of their red-zone trips into touchdowns in the first half, with White and Johnson scoring on tough short-yardage runs — two of them coming on third downs. Malik Miller added another in the third quarter for his first career score.
ULM’s defense was one of the worst in college football in stopping the run heading into Week 5, and its smaller front seven had a hard time with Auburn’s offensive line. All of the red-zone progress has to be taken in proper context, because the challenges start back next Saturday in an SEC West road trip to Mississippi State.
Was Auburn’s new-look offensive line a one-time thing due to injury — or will it stick?
Before the game, Auburn had to shuffle its offensive line. Darius James made his first career start at left tackle as Austin Golson moved back to his old center position, replacing an injured Xavier Dampeer.
Auburn’s starting center dressed out for the game but didn’t see the field after playing through an undisclosed injury in the second half of the LSU victory. Dampeer most likely will get his job back when he returns from injury, as he’s played solidly throughout the season.
The question will come at left tackle. James played well — against lesser competition, sure — but he didn’t allow much pressure on the outside. He also rolled out for a couple of key blocks to spring first-down gains for the Tigers. Auburn only had two negative plays when the first-team offense was in the game, and ULM’s lone sack came on the opposite side of the field from James. Could he be in line for more time?
28 and 309. Auburn scored 28 points and totaled 309 yards in the first half against Louisiana-Monroe. It matched those numbers exactly in the third quarter alone, quickly turning a comfortable lead into a major blowout. The Tigers had plenty of explosive plays from both White and John Franklin III, who had an 80-yard touchdown sprint and a beautiful 39-yard scoring pass to true freshman Nate Craig-Myers.