By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn gave Sean White a coach's compliment Saturday night.
"He's a tough guy. He just plays ball."
And White did just that in helping Auburn beat Arkansas State 51-14 in Jordan-Hare Stadium with a steady passing hand and a running ability that was reminiscent of Tiger offenses of old. White passed for 244 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 60 yards in directing eight of Auburn's nine scoring drives.
White broke out his running game to the delight of his head coach.
"A quarterback needs to be a runner for us to be as good as we can be. And he was a runner enough tonight," Malzahn said.
It was such a turnaround from the Tigers' 19-13 loss to Clemson in the opener that Malzahn said "we looked like an Auburn offense for the first time."
White was making his second start of the season, but unlike the week before, he played without much interruption, staying in on the way to a 48-14 lead, except for coming out for a play after he lost his helmet and a few snaps to running back Kerryon Johnson. That continuity seemed to pay off, and it's something Auburn hopes that will carry over to the SEC opener against Texas A&M at 6 p.m. next Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
There was no disputing who Malzahn's primary quarterback this night.
"When your coaches believe in you, it gives you a little bit of confidence," White said. "He's seen enough football and a lot of quarterbacks, so just putting that trust in me gives me extra confidence. As a team, it's 'Sean's our guy. That's who were listening to.'"
It paid off in a 38-7 halftime lead. And in 706 total yards in the game. It was just the second time Auburn has ever had 700 yards in a game. White's three touchdown passes -- two to Tony Stevens and one to Will Hastings -- was two more than he had his career.
"We wanted to get into a rhythm offensively. The guys around me played amazingly," White said. "I think we did a good job of gaining some confidence and playing in rhythm."
The game story is here...
Sean White takes command as Auburn romps to an easy win. Read all about it: https://t.co/DIF05fek1Y pic.twitter.com/TSMmcv85Q9
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 11, 2016
White showed his running ability throughout, and his quick thinking on one play when, while heading to the ground for a certain loss, he flipped the ball to Kerryon Johnson, who reversed field and scored on a 47-yard run.
"The play he made to Kerryon Johnson was just an unbelievable play for him just to get the ball out, and, of course, K.J. made a wild play when he cut it back across the field," Malzahn said.
"He did a good job when things broke down and just making a play."
White and fellow quarterback John Franklin III combined for 130 rushing yards.
"The defense definitely has to respect the run," White said. "It's something that I feel I haven't been able to show until this game. I think that's something I have to show all year."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine