Offensive outburst energizes defense

Bryan Matthews, Senior Editor
Auburn Sports

AUBURN | The smiles on the player’s faces told the story for Auburn Saturday night.

It wasn’t just about opening conference play with a road win. It was more about how the Tigers walloped Missouri 51-14, a convincing win that helped alleviate, if only for a week, some growing frustrations with the offense.

“We needed a game like this and it will do nothing but help us momentum-wise moving forward,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Specifically our offense, I’m glad they started to click. I think that will be a sign of things to come.”

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Jay G. Tate/AuburnSports.com

While Auburn’s defense has played at a championship level since the opening kickoff of game one, the offense has had its share of ups and downs including five turnovers in a 24-10 win over Mercer last week and managing just two field goals and 117 total yards in a loss at Clemson a week earlier.

This week was an entirely different story with the offense scoring touchdowns on four of its first five drives and finishing with 482 total yards. Four of Auburn’s six longest plays of the season came against Missouri.

“It was a great feeling,” said linebacker Tre’ Williams, who watched from sidelines with a shoulder injury. “I knew they would come out and play ball. I knew it was going to come. With those guys, it was great to watch. I was on the sideline and I was telling them, ‘We're going to give you the ball back,’ and you can see the defense gave them the ball back and they executed, they scored points and it was lovely.”

An inspired defense forced four turnovers in the game, which was more than the previous three games combined.

“When we see the offense scoring it gets us amped up and have us ready to go back out there and do things,” said linebacker Montavious Atkinson.

It was a strong showing for the offense, but there are tougher tests ahead including a matchup against No. 24 Mississippi State this Saturday. The Bulldogs are third in the SEC in total defense limiting opponents to 255.5 yards per game.

“We needed that game, definitely, to just kind of propel ourselves in the right direction,” offensive lineman Braden Smith said. “We've still got a lot of work to do but it's nice to get that first SEC win.”

Kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium is set for 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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