No. 8 Auburn's ground game still work in progress

AP

Print Article

  • FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) runs against Oregon during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Arlington, Texas. No. 8 Auburn has been leaning heavily on JaTarvious Whitlow to power a running game that's key in supporting freshman quarterback Bo Nix. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)

  • 1

    Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Tulane safety Tirise Barge (33) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) runs against Oregon during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Arlington, Texas. No. 8 Auburn has been leaning heavily on JaTarvious Whitlow to power a running game that's key in supporting freshman quarterback Bo Nix. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)

  • 1

    Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Tulane safety Tirise Barge (33) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn entered the season with six tailbacks listed as co-starters on the depth chart. It was a comforting scenario of runners galore for a team trotting out a freshman quarterback.

The reality has been the eighth-ranked Tigers have relied heavily on JaTarvious Whitlow and the running game has taken some time to pick up steam in the first two games.

That was definitely true against Tulane when freshman Bo Nix threw 29 passes before halftime and the runners produced all of 20 yards.

A steady diet of Whitlow runs in the second half 15 of them, in fact helped Auburn pull away.

"The first half, we've struggled a little bit," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday. "Second half, we've played really good football. And some of that's on me, now, too.

"We've got to do a better job as far as everything goes in the first half running-game wise. But I think we're capable of being a good running team. There's no doubt in my mind that we are. And we'll get better."

Despite that second-half success, Whitlow fumbled three times and lost two, losing the ball once on fourth and 1 and fumbling another time on first and goal from the 1. Offensive lineman Marquel Harrell recovered that one.

Backup Kam Martin is averaging 3.1 yards on 14 carries and Shaun Shivers has netted 6 yards on five carries. They should presumably get more chances against heavy underdog Kent State Saturday night.

The running game could be an even bigger factor with top receiver Seth Williams out with a left shoulder injury.

It's not like Auburn's rushing numbers are all that bad. The Tigers rank sixth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards per game while averaging a modest 4.3 yards.

But that depth hasn't really shown up. Whitlow already has 47 carries and Nix is the Tigers' second-leading rusher with 58 yards.

Other options include redshirt freshman Harold Joiner and freshman D.J. Williams, who Malzahn said has been "banged up." Both are bigger guys than Martin and Shivers.

Auburn's string of nine straight seasons with at least one 1,000-yard rusher ended last season, partly because Whitlow was limited by injuries.

Malzahn, who is back calling offensive plays this season, has always relied heavily on the run and on his top tailback. Backs like Tre Mason, Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway and Whitlow last season have had heavy workloads and sometimes injury issues.

The Tigers are hoping an offensive line with five senior starters can pave the way to another productive ground game, minus the injuries.

"It's just a matter of time before that thing really opens up and really explodes because we've got five veteran O-linemen that can get the job done, I guarantee it, and running backs that are all playmakers and that can really tote that thing," wide receiver Sal Canella said. "It's just a matter of time and just working at it every day. You've got to come to work every day and just know that we've got to improve and things will get better for sure."

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Print Article

Read More National & World Sports

The Latest: Steelers QB Roethlisberger has elbow injury

AP

September 15, 2019 at 2:55 pm | The Latest on NFL Week 2 (all times EDT): 2:55 p.m. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a right elbow injury and won't start the second half against the Seahawks. Roet...

Comments

Read More

Enter Siemian: Jets backup QB ready to step in vs. Browns

AP

September 15, 2019 at 11:57 am | FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Trevor Siemian's phone rang late Wednesday night and he knew something was up. It was Adam Gase calling, and the New York Jets' backup quarterback realized he might now ...

Comments

Read More

AP Top 25 Takeaways: Helton's hot seat; Narduzzi's bad call

AP

September 15, 2019 at 12:24 am | The first step toward Southern California making a coaching change that seems inevitable occurred earlier this week when athletic director Lynn Swann stepped down. USC will hire an experienced AD...

Comments

Read More

NFL At 100: Jets-Browns squared off in MNF's debut in 1970

AP

September 14, 2019 at 5:06 pm | It was the prime-time football game that kicked off decades of must-see TV. Broadway Joe and the New York Jets traveled to Cleveland to take on Leroy Kelly and the Browns in the 1970 season opene...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X