Peyton Barber pulls away as Auburn's leading rusher heading to the Birmingham Bowl
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Peyton Barber needs just 24 yards in the Birmingham Bowl to join elite company in the Auburn record book.
The running back heads into the Dec. 30 game against Memphis with 976 rushing yards this season, needing, he hopes, just a handful of carriers to become Auburn's third different 1,000-yard rusher in the last three years. Auburn has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher in six consecutive seasons.
"I've been looking for it for the last couple of games and I haven't gotten it, but at the same time it's all about winning. As long as we win, that's all that matters," Barber said after Auburn completed its second bowl practice Tuesday.
Barber didn't begin the season on top of the depth chart, and shared carries toward the end of the season with Jovon Robinson. But he emerged as Auburn's steadiest offensive player with 226 carries. Nobody else had a hundred.
Barber replaced last year's 1,000-yard rusher Cameron Artis-Payne, who replaced 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason. Barber said he believed he could do it.
"I'm pretty much use to being the underdog. It wasn't anything new," Barber said.
Barber established himself in the season-opening win over Louisville with 115 yards on 24 carries.
"I felt like it was a good starting point. I knew each week I had to keep proving myself because there are three other great running backs behind me," he said.
He kept running and, last Saturday night, he was named the offensive MVP at the Auburn team banquet.
"It definitely I meant a lot. I said at the beginning of the season, this is something I had been hoping for and praying for," Barber said.
He was the workhorse for Gus Malzahn, and, in tight games, he often was the go-to back in the second half. He's one of a handful of players who has rushed for at least four touchdowns in a game this season.
Barber said that was "all about heart.
"That's when we need to step up in big-time situations."
Barber was reminded that Mason, who rushed for 1,800 yards as a senior, call Barber the best running back on that team.
"I thought it was kind of cool, coming from a Heisman Trophy candidate. It definitely meant a lot to me," Barber said. Now, Barber said, reaching 1,000 yards would help fulfill some of that praise.
Next year he'll be back to prove it all over again.
"I'm up for the challenge," Barber said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine