AUBURN | He’s not 100 percent but that hasn’t stopped Kerryon Johnson from back-to-back strong performances.
Auburn’s junior running back had 23 carries for 116 yards and three touchdowns to lead the 13th-ranked Tigers to a 49-10 win over No. 24 Mississippi State Saturday, a week after scoring five touchdowns in a 51-14 win at Missouri.
“I’m feeling good and that definitely puts a smile on my face,” said Johnson of the eight touchdowns in two games. “I missed two weeks, missed the Clemson game, which hurt a lot, so I’m just trying to get back out here and get on track.”
Johnson injured his hamstring in the opening game against Georgia Southern and missed the next two games. He’s still Auburn’s leading rusher with 300 yards on 57 carries. His nine rushing touchdowns are tops in the SEC.
“Kerryon is playing with a band on his leg. The fact that he’s not 100 percent says a lot about him,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
The injury was noticeable on Auburn’s first series against the Bulldogs when Johnson broke out on a 59-yard run but slowed up and was caught at the MSU 5-yard line. Johnson scored four plays later on 4th and goal at the 1-yard line.
“Once I got there and I saw the guy coming up on the right, I was like I’ve got a choice, I could try to pull it out and maybe something freakish happens to re-injure it or I can take the yards I’ve got and live to fight another day,” Johnson said. “You got to be smart with it.”
Outside of Johnson, Auburn’s running backs were not very productive. Malik Miller came on late to gain 17 yards on three carries. Kamryn Pettway had five carries for six yards and a fumble. Kam Martin played on kick return but not on offense.
“We put Pettway in there, and he’s not quite at 100 percent, either,” Malzahn said. “Kam, he was a little bit banged up from last week.”
The win moved Auburn to 4-1 on the season and 2-0 in the conference. The Tigers host Ole Miss next Saturday at 11 a.m. CT on the SEC Network before embarking on a three-game SEC road trip.
“Everybody is happy when you’re winning but I think it’s a testament to when we took a loss. We stayed together,” Johnson said. “We knew what was coming. We just had to be patient and it’s paying off now.”