Wednesday, September 10, 2014


There were the points, sure. But offensive-minded coach Gus Malzahn liked most everything else, too.

Defense? Check. Special teams? Check. Quarterback and running back play? Check and check.

Auburn ran past San Jose State 59-13 before a sellout crowd of 87,451 Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium behind a mix of big plays and consistency.

Malzahn's first post-game assessment?

"The positives, we had three interceptions on defense, and a punt return for a touchdown," said Malzahn, the Auburn coach who saw his Tigers improve to 2-0 after backing up its 45-21 win over Arkansas in the season-opener with another dominating performance on Saturday.

Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for more than 100 yards for the second straight game while running for three touchdowns.

Auburn scored seven touchdowns, including a 55-yard punt return by veteran Quan Bray, and a 3-yard touchdown run by freshman Roc Thomas on his first-ever Auburn carry.

Auburn's defense was solid again, thanks in part to interceptions by Jermaine Whitehead, Rudy Ford and Trovon Reed; and Auburn's offense used three quarterbacks again and mixed in some running backs again.

Nick Marshall started at quarterback and played the first three quarters. When he left, Auburn was up 45-13.

Marshall scored on a 27-yard touchdown run. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass. There were the feel-good stories of two long-time Tigers.

Bray masterfully returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown. Reed, the receiver-turned-defensive back, intercepted a pass in the end zone to turn back a late San Jose State opportunity.

Defensive end Montravius Adams didn't intercept a pass. But he had a sack and, overall, three tackles for a loss, and the fans cheered every one.

"I think it got guys got rolling," Malzahn said.

"Montravius got in there. As the game went on, our guys really got back there."

The sack, said Malzahn, "was a big play in the game. It gives everybody positive emotion and momentum."

Auburn can consider all of that, and its 2-0 start, during next week's off week, though Malzahn said that really won't be the priority. Saturday was another easy win, but he said Auburn benefitted from it.

"We've got to get better. We have to worry about us," he said.

"We have to feel like when we watch this tape we did improve from Week One to Week Two.

"Overall, I feel like we've done that."

Artis-Payne rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown in the win over Arkansas, then went for 112 yards and three touchdowns against San Jose State. He did most of that work in the first half, when it mattered, when he rushed for 106 yards.

Marshall was second in rushing, like he was last year, by running for 103 yards, Corey Grant rushed for 89 yards. Marshall averaged 9.4 yards a run, Grant averaged 8.9 yards a run. Artis-Payne averaged 7.

Malzahn said Artis Payne "did a good job. Corey did a good job in there, too. We've got to have those two guys."

Bonus points: "He's got a good understanding of the overall offense; he's a good pass protector," Malzahn said.

Everybody seemed to get into the act in the first half on the way to Auburn's 38-10 lead. Artis-Payne scored three touchdowns in the first two quarters. Bray made his spectacular 55-yard punt return for a touchdown, sidestepping tacklers and outracing everyone to the end zone. Duke Williams, who caught nine passes in the opener, caught four more, all in the first half.

Marshall played the first three quarters, reversing the role he played with backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson in the first game. Like the opener, Jonathan Wallace finished up at quarterback.

Whitehead intercepted a pass, his second of the season, to set up one TD. Ford intercepted a pass to set up a 27-yard Daniel Carlson field goal on the last play of the half.

Auburn scored on one drive by doing nothing but running the ball. It scored other times by mixing it up.

Marshall threw a touchdown pass, a 4-yarder to Ricardo Louis.

The stats didn't lie. Auburn had 321 yards at the half. They coasted from there, finishing with 493.

The first-half touchdowns went like this: Louis TD, Artis-Payne 2-yard TD, Artis-Payne 5-yard TD, Bray 55-yard TD return, Artis-Payne 1-yard run.

Go figure: San Jose State had the ball 27 minutes, 34 seconds in the first three quarters. Auburn had it 17:26. Yet, with Marshall's 27-yard TD run in the third, Auburn led 45-13.

A 1-yard Johnson TD run early in the fourth made it 52-13. Thomas scored on a 3-yard run on his first Auburn carry for 59-13.

Then there was the almost fitting end: Reed intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop San Jose State's last serious drive.

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