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Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne arrives as SEC's top rusher
Nov. 15, 2014

Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne will be part of a running back showcase Saturday night

By Charles Goldberg

ATHENS, Ga. -- The guy who may have been running toward the Heisman Trophy before a suspension sidelined him will return to action Saturday. Guess who passed him in the SEC while he was standing still...

Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing heading into the 6:15 p.m. game at Sanford Stadium, arriving just in time to see the return of Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who left the season a month ago atop the rushing charts. 

In his place is Artis-Payne, who Georgia coach Mark Richt calls "just a great workhorse back."

"He's got all the attributes you want in a great back...make people miss, getting yards after contact, protects the ball. He's very outstanding," Richt said.

"And our guys are pretty good, too."

Let us count the ways... 

Artis-Payne leads the SEC with 1,190 yards, 206 more than second-place Josh Robinson of Mississippi State.  Artis-Payne is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tre Mason, who gave Auburn the SEC rushing leader last season. 

Gurley has been stalled at 773 yards while serving a four-game suspension after selling his name for profit.

"The only guy that stopped him was the autograph guy," said Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

That sets the stage for No. 9 Auburn against No. 15 Georgia, and they both dream of making it to the SEC title game. Auburn is 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. Georgia is 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the league.

"Even if you take Todd Gurley out of it," said Auburn defensive lineman Gabe Wright, "it's still the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and that's how we're treating it."

Georgia has hardly missed a beat without Gurley with the running of freshman Nick Chubb, who is third in the SEC in rushing with 895 yards. Chubb and Gurley will be the 1-2 punch Auburn will see Saturday. Auburn can trot out more than Artis-Payne, too, so it is little wonder the Tigers lead the SEC in rushing with 2,578 yards, and Georgia is second at 2,307.

"Gurley is like a time bomb," warned Johnson. "When is he going to get that 95-yard kickoff, when is he going to hit that 40-yard run, when is he going to catch that 35-yard screen pass? You have to be exactly right on him every time, because he's going to break the physical tackle and outrun the space tackle. He's a specimen. With those two guys rotating and staying fresh, it will be a big-time challenge."

Artis-Payne, meanwhile, is what Auburn thought he was when the Tigers signed him out of a California junior college last season.

"We knew he was a tough guy. We knew he was a hard worker," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. "He did some very good things last year when he got in. 

"He is very good at all the little things. He's a very good pass protector. He's a good blocker when he's asked to block. He does a lot of things that don't come out on the stat sheet that really helps us."

This will be Georgia's first home game in 42 days.

"I think there's a good vibe with that," Richt said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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