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Auburn gets a lift from improving offensive line
Kerryon Johnson got a lift from Auburn's offensive line, here from Robert Leff, Alex Kozan, in center, and Braden Smith
Oct. 3, 2016

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Offensive lineman Braden Smith wants to see Auburn score in the red zone by getting into the end zone.

Touchdowns are the order of this day.

"No offense against Daniel, but we want him kicking extra points, not field goals."

And so that's what Daniel Carlson did last Saturday. He kicked eight extra points in Auburn's 58-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe a week after kicking six field goals and scoring all of the Tigers' points in an 18-13 win over LSU.

Smith said the offensive "took it personally" to score touchdowns in the red zone against ULM after relying so heavily on Carlson the week before.

"You got to be able to punch it in from there and get touchdowns," Smith said.

Auburn did, scoring four touchdowns on its five trips to the red zone against ULM, only failing in the final seconds of the game. Auburn's other scores didn't even bother with the red zone, that area from 20 yards to the goal line. Auburn's long scoring plays were 80, 48, 48 and 39 yards.

The Tigers will be looking for more when they visit Mississippi State at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Auburn handled Monroe with a patched-up offensive line. Austin Golson shifted from left tackle to center because of an injury to Xavier Dampeer, and Darius James stepped in at left tackle

"Darius did a great job and Austin, going to center, did his part and did really good," Smith said.

"Just having versatility along the line in case someone goes down, you have plenty of options. You can mix and match people and there will be no let-up at all."

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said he liked how the offensive line adapted.

"It's one thing to know that's your option, but to be able to see it..." Lashlee said. "We felt like Austin would play well, but to see Darius come in and do a solid job for us is only going to help.

"It was huge for Darius to get that experience."

Golson, who was Auburn's center last year, remembered the way.

"Just plug them in and roll from there, basically. We're not missing a beat," Smith said.

Auburn spent last week working on it red zone offense after settling for field goals the week before. The Tigers left the field having scored on 21 of its 27 trips to the red zone this season.

The stakes and opposition jump up this week as Auburn returns to SEC play.

Lashlee said Auburn's red zone success was based on the most fundamental aspect of Gus Malzahn's offense.

"We were able to run it in, which helps. The guys made the plays, made the blocks and got in the end zone," he said. "We emphasized it all week. Obviously, we didn't run every play we had prepared, but we did a good job executing.

"The challenge is to continue to get better and do it again, arguably against better people. The plan will tweak each week... But at the end of the day, we stressed hard finishing and winning those one-on-one battles, and guys have to step up and make plays."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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