Peyton Barber, left, and Jovon Robinson provide the 1-2 punch to Auburn's running game
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Gus Malzahn says he'll lean on running backs Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.
And why not?
"We have the luxury of having two big guys that can really carry the load," Malzahn said on the university's Tiger Talk radio show Monday night.
Malzahn said Auburn will need to have success running if it is to win. It won't be easy, considering Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing and total defense. Alabama had good numbers last year, too, but Auburn still rang up an Iron Bowl-record 630 yards of offense in a game that produced a staggering 1,169 yards by the two teams.
Barber needs 31 yards rushing to join the 1,000-yard club. Robinson, who has come on late in the season after overcoming an early injury, has rushed for a team-best 351 yards over the last three games, averaging 6½ yards a carry.
"Jovon," Malzahn said, "is really coming on."
Barber has been the workhorse of the offense, Malzahn said, though he's been slowed the last several games by injury.
"He's an extremely hard worker," Malzahn said. "He takes it very seriously, similar to Cameron Artis-Payne. Cameron Artis-Payne would rush for 150 yards, great ball security, three touchdowns, and he'd text me at 12 o'clock. 'Coach, I'm sorry I missed a block.' Peyton is kind of that same way.
"He's very competitive. He's very hard on himself. And he always wants to improve. He's battled some injuries, he's played through some injuries and I have a lot of respect for him."
Malzahn said the plan last Saturday was to give Barber and Robinson about 20 carries each, but, with a comfortable lead, the Tigers rested most of their starters in the second half. Robinson, who had 99 yards on 15 carries in the first half, didn't get a carry in the second half. Barber had 47 yards on 12 carries. Auburn had 11 players carry the ball in that game.
Things figure to be tougher against Alabama. Malzahn said Alabama has "probably the best front in college football."
"They have one of the best, if not the best, run defenses in college football. It seems like we say that every year.
"We've got to figure out a way to run the football. That's what we do."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine