Auburn's offensive line has Tigers on the run
Quarterback Sean White and Braden Smith celebrate a big Auburn play against Arkansas
Oct. 25, 2016

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. It was a rushing performance for the ages, 543 yards against a nationally-ranked team, the most rushing yards one SEC school has ever had against another in a regular-season game.

Guard Braden Smith says the Auburn offensive line that helped Auburn run up all those yards and helped the Tigers beat Arkansas 56-3 Saturday won't rest on those laurels.

"There's always going to be that because you don't want to ever get complacent," Smith said. "There's always places you can improve on. You want to correct that and going into the next week get better and keep taking steps forward."

The six-deep offensive line features Smith, Austin Golson, Robert Leff, Darrius James, Xavier Dampeer and Alex Kozan, who was named the SEC's offensive lineman of the week.

While there's always work to do, Smith says, there's still pride in the 543 yards.

"You definitely can't complain about that. Anything above 200 yards is good, but 500, you can't go wrong," he said.

Auburn did all that running without Kerryon Johnson, who came into last week as Auburn's leading rusher but was held out because of a sore ankle. Instead, Kamryn Pettway pounded Arkansas for 192 yards to move to first in the SEC in rushing, averaging a league-best 116.2 yards per game. Auburn also leads the SEC in team rushing, averaging 302.9 yards per game, getting a boost by averaging 9½ yards a carry against Arkansas.

"Wow, did we? That's really something," said coach Gus Malzahn after the game.

Three of the Top 10 total-yard games in Auburn history have come this season, against Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas. Auburn will play at Ole Miss at 6:15 p.m. Saturday as one of only three schools in the country averaging more than 300 yards rushing per game.

Smith said the interchangeable parts at running back and in the offensive line are "just about our overall execution on offense. It doesn't matter who we have in there, we're going to be able to get it done as long as everybody executes and we're on the same page."

Auburn shook up its offensive line after Dampeer, the center, suffered a leg injury in the fourth game. Austin Golson moved from left tackle to center, and James took over at tackle after that.

"A man goes down and another man comes in. We don't miss a beat. That's basically how our system runs," Smith said.

Auburn has stuck with that lineup the last three games. Smith said James has "definitely worked hard and he's getting the job done."

That was part of the show against Arkansas.

"Their defense couldn't stop what we were doing. We were just on a roll. After the first play it just took off from there," Smith said.

The first play was a 78-yard touchdown run by receiver Eli Stove, and Auburn didn't look back in winning its fourth straight game.

"We knew we had the ability," Smith said. "It was just kind of a rough start, rough patch. Things didn't look like they were going our way, but we always knew we had the capabilities to produce those types of results.

"We just took little steps each week finding ways we can improve. It's been paying dividends."

So, what's next for Auburn's offensive line?

"It just depends on how hard we work for it," Smith said. "I don't think there really is a limit. We can be as good as we want to be."

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


 

 

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