AUBURN - The most productive rushing performance in nearly two years, individual players rising to the occasion and a strong showing from the defense were all part of Auburn’s 42-7 rout over lowly New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon.
You know, all the things which haven’t happened in the previous eight games of the worst season in 60 years for Auburn (2-7, 0-6 SEC).
The Tigers ran for 311 yards - their most since gaining 315 against Georgia in 2010 - including a pair of 100-yard rushers in Tre Mason (22 carries, career-high 152 yards, 1 TD) and Onterio McCalebb (8 carries, 113 yards, 2 TDs). Fullback Jay Prosch, a junior, scored his first career touchdown, sophomore wide receiver Trovon Reed caught his first career touchdown and linebacker Daren Bates returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown.
“You take a guy like Trovon Reed, it was really good to see him, as I said afterwards, catch the ball and do something with the ball in his hands,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “It was good to see a couple of tailbacks rush for 100 yards. It was good to see the D-line get some pressure and some sacks. It was good to see the defense score.
“There were some things spread out through there that, again, along with the importance of the win, there were some things in there for guys individually and groups individually of positions. I think it was very big. Again, that was a very happy locker room.”
While there was plenty to be happy and excited about in a lopsided win, it was against New Mexico State. The debut of true freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace became a footnote on a day where everyone else was able to take attention away from an average to below-average performance.
“I did alright. Still could do a lot better, I think,” Wallace said. “Just as far as correcting - taking the right reads, taking the right footwork, the little things that really matter as far as scoring a touchdown or going three-and-out. Just those things, I really have to pay close attention to and correct them this week.”
Wallace went 9 for 16 for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception but got off to an admittedly slow start. Chizik was pleased to see Wallace remain composed and eventually find a rhythm once the game was well in hand.
“I think that (Saturday) was a game that really kind of unfolded very favorably for him simply because at the beginning of the game he started very slow,” Chizik said. “What you look for in a young quarterback is that when things don’t start off extremely fast or you start off with a lot of confidence in some throws and things, you want to see him respond. That was one of the things that I was most proud of Jonathan being able to do, was to keep chopping wood, keep plugging along. And eventually he made some really good things happen.”
Chizik did not shower Wallace, the third starting quarterback for Auburn this season, with praise.
While the embattled Tigers coach did officially name Wallace the starter again for this week’s game with rival Georgia, he did say some early decision-making by Wallace was not as sharp. Wallace was 4 for 10 for 50 yards with an interception in the first half.
“I think that comes with a young quarterback,” said Chizik, who is 37-36 as a head coach including 32-17 at Auburn. “It’ll be a great learning experience for him. There’s a couple of times that we had receivers that we could have hit for really explosive plays and were off the mark just a little bit on the throws.”
Wallace did get into a groove in the second half and connected with Reed for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 7:19 to go.
The Phenix City native will be looking for a more consistent showing this week.
“I have to take in what I’ve done and make corrections on everything I’ve messed up on,” Wallace said.