By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It was, quarterback Sean White said, the play that set the tone, and it took Auburn exactly a second to unleash it on Arkansas.
On Auburn's very first snap, White handed off to Eli Stove on an end around. Seventy-eight happy yards later, Stove was in the end zone and the No. 21 Tigers were well on their way to a 56-3 win over No. 17 Arkansas in front of 87,451 fans in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
The only thing that stopped Stove was the end zone.
"That set up everything," White said. "We never looked back."
Auburn didn't. The Tigers rushed for 543 yards, the most ever by an SEC team against a league member; and blasted through the team rushing record against an SEC team of 444 yards set against Tennessee in 2013. Auburn finished with 632 total yards and had their largest margin of victory ever against a nationally-ranked team.
White continued to grow in the quarterback role, hitting six of a modest 11 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He showed he can run, too, going for 61 yards and a touchdown on just four carries. Throw in Kamryn Pettway's 192 rushing yards; and a combined 252 rushing yards from Stove, Kam Martin and Stanton Truitt, and you had an Auburn offensive show.
And that was without Kerryon Johnson, Auburn's leading rusher coming in the game, sitting out the evening while nursing a sore ankle.
White said it was "pretty close" to complete game and "56-3 in the SEC is really tough against a ranked opponent. We really came out and played extremely well. We played together. I was just happy everybody contributed. Everybody was playing well."
White scored on a 1-yard run around end, an unexpected turn of events after Pettway had hammered Arkansas for the most of the night up the middle. White averaged 15.2 yards per carry.
"Anytime you have Kamryn Pettway running the ball successfully downhill, they all focus on him," said coach Gus Malzahn. "It just takes that one time to sneak out; nobody really knew he had the ball. He split them there. He’s faster than people think he is. He showed some speed.
"Sean White continues to improve. He had a couple of big runs, and we talked preseason about the quarterback needing to be a runner."
White said the Stove-for-a-touchdown play has been around. "We just never used it. Today we decided to open up with, and Eli made the most of it."
White said the win gives Auburn confidence, but he said the Tigers had it even after the slow start.
"We had confidence even though we were 1-2. But when you win games in a row, especially convincingly, it lets everybody on the team know that's it's more than confidence. You know you played well."
Auburn has outscored its opponents 150-24 over the last 11 quarters.
White said the offensive line played a big role Saturday.
"No matter what play, what run, it didn't matter," he said. "They were blocking it perfectly. Those guys are really good. They're gelling together at a perfect time."
Sean White says Auburn's confidence is growing. Guess so. Tigers just beat Arkansas 56-3. Video pic.twitter.com/lN9eJZ7Yoc
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) October 23, 2016
Pettway, who carried it 39 times for 169 yards in Auburn's previous game, carried it 27 more times for those 192 more yards. White was happy to keep giving him the ball.
"They fall asleep because he's so big. But he can run, too," White said. "I don't know what he runs in the 40, but he's pretty fast. He always has a chance to take it to the house."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine