By Greg Ostendorf
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Saturday marked Auburn's first trip to Missouri in program history, and after a convincing 51-14 win, it's likely the visiting Tigers can't wait to come back. They dominated in all three phases and secured their first SEC victory of the season.
"I'm just happy for our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "We talked about how we needed to play up to our potential. We talked about how we need to play as a team and play good in all three phases, and I think we did that. We wanted to get off to a fast start in the SEC, so we're pleased to get the victory."
After struggling at times the past couple weeks, the offense put together its best performance through the first four games. On the first play from scrimmage, Jarrett Stidham connected with Kyle Davis for 58 yards -- the longest pass play of the season for Auburn. The drive was capped by a Kerryon-Johnson touchdown run, a theme for the rest of the night.
Johnson, playing for the first time since the season opener, ran for 48 yards and five touchdowns -- one shy of the Auburn single-game record set by Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in 2003. As a team, the Tigers rushed for 263 yards.
"Our goal was to rush for 200 yards, and we rushed for over 200 yards," Malzahn said. "I talked about how we have to get back to being able to effectively run the football. That's really a big part of what we do, and we were able to do that. I thought that was a big key to the game."
Stidham had another solid day through the air as he went 13 of 17 for 218 yards and threw a 57-yard strike to Nate Craig-Myers for his lone touchdown of the game. Late in the third quarter, he gave way to true freshman Malik Willis, who got his first snaps at quarterback and finished the game for Auburn.
The defense might not have played up to its standard, allowing 340 total yards, but it was still another impressive effort by a unit that came in No. 2 nationally in total defense. The performance was highlighted by six tackles for loss, two sacks and four turnovers.
The first turnover came on Missouri's second drive when Carlton Davis pulled in his first interception of the season. Then early in the second quarter, Jeff Holland hit Drew Lock as he was attempting to throw the ball. Teammate Marlon Davidson picked up the loose football and returned it 33 yards to set up another Auburn touchdown. In the second half, Montavious Atkinson forced a fumble that was recovered by Daniel Thomas. And on Missouri's last drive, true freshmen Jordyn Peters sacked the quarterback, knocked the ball out and fellow freshmen Tyrone Truesdell pounced on the loose football.
Even the special teams got back on the right track Saturday. Kicker Daniel Carlson, who had missed some kicks to begin the season, looked like the Lou Groza Award finalist from a year ago as he made all three of his field-goal attempts from 41, 52 and 54 yards.
"I'm real proud of our team," Malzahn said. "We needed a game like this, and it will do nothing but help us momentum-wise moving forward."
Following Saturday's win, Auburn will return home next Saturday where it will face Mississippi State at 5 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Greg Ostendorf is a Staff Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: