AUBURN, Ala. — While his 3-game streak of 200-yard performances with 70-plus marks in completion percentage came to an end Saturday night, Sean White thoroughly enjoyed his performance against Arkansas.
Why? Because in a 56-3 rout of the Razorbacks, White got to do something that he hadn’t done in his entire Auburn career — break a long run.
“That was my first time I ever really remember just breaking it and having the chance to score a long one,” White said. “I was just excited and running.”
On Auburn’s second drive of the game, White ran a read option with running back Kamryn Pettway. As Arkansas’ shaky run defense crashed heavily toward the middle to stop a Pettway handoff, White tucked the ball and ran to the outside.
Thirty yards later, he was still running. Then, when the Arkansas defenders started to close in on him, White took a less-than-smooth tumble to the turf for what officially was a 41-yard gain.
“I kind of got ahead of myself,” White said. “Next time, I’ll do better than that, or at least make it look more graceful.”
Over on the sidelines, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was proud of his quarterback. But he didn’t have a ton of faith in the pocket-passing sophomore’s ability to find the end zone.
“I knew he wasn’t going to take it to the house, but it was nice to see him get a long run,” Malzahn said dryly.
A few plays after his 41-yard run — which was two yards more than what Arkansas’ running backs combined for Saturday night — White handed it off to Pettway for a powerful touchdown.
He got used to doing that against the Razorbacks, as four different Auburn skill players scored rushing touchdowns in the rout.
Auburn didn’t need to rely on White’s arm, which led the SEC in efficiency, accuracy and passer rating heading into the weekend. And that was perfectly OK for White, who enjoyed getting more work in a dominant ground game.
“It seemed like every play we called worked,” White said. “That’s thanks to the O-line, the running backs and receivers. Everybody was contributing. It was a fun day to play football.”
White finished the game with 6 completions on 11 attempts for 77 yards and 1 touchdown. Those 77 yards were the fewest White has had in a game as an Auburn starting quarterback.
But White added 61 rushing yards on 4 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-short from another read-option play.
Once again, Arkansas sold out to stopping Pettway up the middle — and that left White to walk into the end zone untouched.
“Anytime you have Kamryn Pettway running the ball successfully downhill, they all focus on him,” Malzahn said. “It just takes that one time to sneak out. Nobody really knew he had the ball.”
For White, the Arkansas win was another game to prove that he can make the necessary rushing plays that are asked for a quarterback in Malzahn’s system. While he’s not a dominant rushing force like a Cam Newton or a speedy threat like a Nick Marshall or even a John Franklin III, White showed some improving wheels.
“Sean can run,” said Stanton Truitt, the wide receiver-turned-running back who caught White’s only touchdown pass of the game. “That’s what I have to say. Sean can run.”
While Auburn’s cast of running backs and receivers will put defenses on high alert after an SEC record-breaking game against Arkansas, White did enough on the ground Saturday to show future opponents it’s risky to only concentrate on who gets his handoffs.
The Auburn starting quarterback can create even more problems on the nation’s No. 3 rushing attack with his underrated legs.
“Whenever we call a read-option type play, if I can get on the edge and get some yards, it just opens things up for the rest of the game,” White said. “That’s important.”