Auburn's Gus Malzahn found reasons to celebrate in Saturday's win over San Jose State
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Gus Malzahn let a running back take direct snaps, found some big plays in the kicking game and saw his defense come up with four turnovers.
Peyton Barber's five-touchdown game stole the headlines in Saturday's 35-21 win over San Jose State, but Auburn's head coach found other things, including those elusive big plays, that he can build on as the Tigers enter a timely off week.
Auburn can catch its breath and study what has taken it to its 3-2 record before playing again at Kentucky on Oct. 15.
"We have a better idea of who we are offensively, defensively and special teams," he said. "I felt that the keys to the game were that the defense forced four turnovers and gave the offense some short fields."
Auburn averaged 47.3 yards on three kickoff returns, too.
Those short fields made it easier. Auburn's average starting position was around midfield. The Tigers' touchdown drives were 23, 60, 74, 24 and 45 yards. Barber came up big, and Malzahn pointed to a big Ricardo Louis catch that qualified as a big play, too.
"Some things we can build upon, and we can get some guys healed up. Much needed," Malzahn said.
Quarterback Sean White only threw it 10 times, but Malzahn was OK with that.
"We do what we have to do to win, and that's just the way it was today," he said. "I was excited about the running game. We didn't have to throw it that much. We had some short fields that had something to do with that, too. But we have a good idea about who we are moving forward."
Kerryon Johnson made his debut as a Wildcat quarterback, taking five snaps and gaining 21 yards. Louis took a snap there, too.
San Jose State's Tyler Ervin, who rushed for 300 yards against Fresno State last week, rushed for 160 against Auburn. The Spartans finished with 406 yards.
"The big thing that stood out to me was the four turnovers," Malzahn said. "If you get four turnovers, I don't care how many yards you give up, you still have a good chance of winning.
"We were very opportunistic. They are still a work in progress, just like our offense, but the good thing is, we know a lot about what we have and the good thing is that we have an off week which is much needed to heal up and clean some things up. It's a good win against a quality opponent and we can get some good momentum going into the second half of this season."
The game story is here.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine