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Auburn beats Georgia Southern, 41-7 in season opener

Sept. 2, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - Relying on a smothering defense that allowed only 78 yards and a powerful ground game that produced 351, Auburn beat Georgia Southern 41-7 Saturday in the Tigers 2017 season opener.

Facing a triple option offense, Kevin Steele's unit provided three options of its own: tackles for loss (12), sacks (5), and scant passing yards (8).

"I thought it was a very good win," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "What stands out to me right now is our defense. Our defense was unbelievable. They were outstanding. The triple option scares you to death. Our defense got a chance to play a lot of young guys."

Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin each rushed for 136 yards and scored touchdowns. Jarrett Stidham added a 14-yard touchdown run.

"Very pleased with our guys in the run game, and the pass game, made some plays," Malzahn said. "In both of those areas, I feel like we were balanced."

Daniel Carlson scored the season's first points on a 50-yard field goal on Auburn's opening possession.

After back-to-back three-and-outs by Auburn's defense, Johnson scored on a 60-yard run on a one-play drive that made it 10-0 Auburn with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

Georgia Southern scored its only points on a 22-yard fumble return to make it 10-7.

After Johnson's 34-yard gain, his last carry of the night, Stidham's touchdown run gave Auburn a 17-7 lead.

Martin scored from 36 to give Auburn a 24-7 halftime lead.

"When my opportunity comes, I have to make plays," Martin said. "Just keep getting better each and every week."

Stidham's first touchdown pass, a 19-yarder to Ryan Davis, put Auburn up 31-7 early in the third quarter.

Carlson's second field goal, a 37-yarder, made it 34-7 with 5:20 left in the third.

Stidham connected with Will Hastings on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 9:18 remaining for the final score.

Stidham completed 14 or 24 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

"As a team, I thought we did really good for the first game," Stidham said. "Obviously, we have a stout defense. Offensively, we did some good things, did some bad things. We turned the ball over too much. We're just going to have to get better from it."

"It was good for Jarrett to get a game under his belt," Malzahn said. "It's been two years since he played. It was good for him to get out there with his new teammates."

Hastings led Auburn with four receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Auburn averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Georgia Southern was 0-for-15 on third down. Tre' Williams led Auburn's defense with 10 tackles and two sacks.

Five Tigers made their first starts: Stidham, offensive linemen Prince Tega Wanogho and Mike Horton, and defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Jeff Holland.

Auburn hits the road next Saturday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN to play defending national champion Clemson.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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