By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Receiver Tony Stevens didn't catch a pass in Auburn's last game, but he didn't complain. How could he? Auburn ran for 543 yards, the most ever by one SEC team against another, and scored eight touchdowns against Arkansas in last Saturday's 56-3 win. The Tigers now find themselves leading the league in rushing and, in a very controlled way, passing efficiency.
"If we can run the ball all day and they can't stop it, I'm for it," Stevens said. "I know there are going to be some games we might have to throw it, and the running backs will have to block for us. It's a team effort. Nobody has complained because you just try to go out there blocking and try to make an impact blocking."
Auburn's runaway run game, which received a boost from the willingness of the receivers to block, should get another boost in Saturday's 6:15 p.m. game at Ole Miss with the return of running back Kerryon Johnson, who missed the Arkansas game with a sore ankle. Coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday "there's no doubt" that Johnson would play.
Johnson and Kamryn Pettway, now the SEC's leading rusher, have combined for 1,235 yards rushing through seven games.
Auburn's receivers get an assist there. They won praise for their down-field blocking against Arkansas, plays that freed the running backs for big gains.
Auburn has thrown the second fewest passes in the Southeastern Conference — 162 to Kentucky's 161 — but quarterback Sean White has made the most of his opportunities. He leads the league in passing efficiency.
He even had 61 yards rushing on just four carries against Arkansas.
"People don't give him enough credit, but he can make plays with his feet also," Stevens said. "He's more athletic than most people think."
Auburn has scored 20 offensive touchdowns in the last three games. Fifteen of those touchdowns came via the run. But Stevens said the receivers have plenty to do even when they're not catching passes. Receivers coach Kodi Burns, who was a blocking receiver in the first order when he played at Auburn, has passed down this key to victory.
"Kodi kept preaching to us that instead of a running back just getting 5 yards a pop, if we make that block on the perimeter and go get the safety, it might be a home run or might be 20 yards," Stevens said. "You saw Saturday that every time we went and got the safety or anytime we block on the perimeter, the running back was going long for like 54 yards, 40 yards."
Malzahn said the blocking of his receivers was "really one of the things that stood out to me the other night. Our wide receivers blocked better than they have in a long time."
"You've got to take pride" in blocking as a receiver, Stevens said, and that it can be contagious. Stevens pointed to Kyle Davis, Marcus Davis and Ryan Davis.
"It's just a whole team effort," Stevens said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine