AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway was quiet in the beginning of Auburn’s game against Vanderbilt on Saturday. He made a booming statement before the day was finished.
On an 11-yard run during the third quarter, Pettway added his name to the list of 1,000-yard rushers at Auburn — the Tigers’ ninth in the last seven seasons.
Only Auburn, Oregon and Boise State have had seven consecutive seasons with 1,000-yard rushers.
Pettway started in the Tigers’ backfield and gained 50 yards on 12 carries in the first two quarters (4.2 average). The 6-foot, 240 pound Pettway started rolling during the second half, amassing 123 yards in 13 attempts.
For his grand finale, the running back broke free and rushed 60 yards up the middle of the field before slowing up around the Vanderbilt 12-yard line. Pettway hobbled off of the field and the Auburn medical staff helped him to the training table on the sideline.
“He pulled something obviously,” coach Gus Malzahn said following the game. “He was going out and poor kid pulled something. We’re a pretty beat-up team.”
Still, Pettway — he appeared cheerful while being examined by trainers — has plenty of reasons to smile.
Auburn’s backfield was a concern during fall camp. Sophomore Kerryon Johnson started the season strong, emerging as the feature back in Malzahn’s 2016 offense.
Pettway reached the mark despite not playing in the Tigers’ home opener against Clemson and missing Auburn’s homecoming game against Louisiana-Monroe with a bruised quad. Still, through seven games the Montgomery, Ala., native has 1,106 yards and seven touchdowns.
The sophomore left the game against the Commodores after rushing for 173 yards, his seventh 100-yard game this season.
Pettway also became the first player in nearly 31 years to reel off four-straight games of 150-plus yards. The last person to achieve that feat was Bo Jackson during his 1985 Heisman Trophy season.
The achievement gives Auburn’s running back unit a chance to breathe and regroup. The pressure to continue the trend of 1,000-yard rushers on the Plains is no longer on their to-do list. Johnson addressed the approaching milestone with Pettway earlier this week.
“I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we just don’t want to be a group that doesn’t get it done,” Johnson said. “And to know we got it out of the way with three games left is just a huge relief. You know, obviously you don’t want to play for that, but when you get a stat like that out of the way, you can really just focus in on just making yourself better and doing what you’re supposed to do.”
Yet Malzahn can’t say with certainty where Pettway’s year will rank. Auburn still has games remaining, including matchups against Georgia next Saturday and the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.
“I’d like to probably answer that at the end of the season when everything is kind of out,” Malzahn said. “He’s done a phenomenal job. He’s come on to the scene. A guy that played H-back last year in this league, that’s probably unheard of. He’s a force, he’s a load.”