AUBURN, Ala. — Despite the elation Auburn felt after toppling LSU a week ago, there were still some potentially dangerous problems lurking under the surface.
Auburn (3-2) had failed to score a touchdown in any of its six trips to the red zone, and head coach Gus Malzhan yearned to give his receivers more vertical routes to try and take the top off the defense.
Against Louisiana-Monroe (1-3), both of those boxes were checked off. Auburn dominated the Warhawks Saturday 58-7 to notch its third win of the year and end the season-opening five-game homestand on a high note.
Sean White threw for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both of which were 48-yard deep balls on play-action routes. The first went to freshman Kyle Davis, and the second to senior Tony Stevens for his fifth-career scoring catch.
“We talked about that two weeks ago, that we need to give our guys more chances down the field,” Malzahn said. “That’s been kind of an emphasis, and we did that today. Hit a couple, one I think was a pass interference, came close on another. But you gotta take chances down the field, it’s good. I think we had two of our freshmen catch touchdowns, all on deep balls.”
Kerryon Johnson spearheaded Auburn’s rushing attack, accounting for 146 of the Tigers’ 410 yards on the ground. Auburn outgained Louisiana-Monroe in total yards 688-251, the fourth-most in school history.
White ended the day going 14 of 17 for 239 yards before giving way to backup John Franklin III midway through the third quarter and Auburn leading 42-7. Franklin scored his first touchdown at Auburn two plays later, racing 80 yards untouched on a read option. He added his first-career scoring pass a drive later, dropping a perfectly thrown 39-yard pass to freshman Nate Craig-Myers in the end zone.
“Any touchdown is a pretty touchdown to me,” Franklin said. “It was definitely a nice pass to Nate (Craig-Myers). He got open and made it easier for me to drop it in. I was just thinking, ‘Don’t miss this touchdown. It’s too easy right now.'”
The Warhawks’ only score came as time expired in the first half, a 2-yard pass to Marcus Green that got Louisiana-Monroe within 28-7.
“I just told them we have to bounce back,” said Louisiana-Monroe head coach Matt Viator. “We win and lose as a team. They beat all of us — players and coaches, everybody. They outplayed us and outcoached us, so that’s just the way it is. We all have to learn from it and get better.”
AUBURN: The red zone issues that plagued Auburn against LSU were nearly nonexistent. The Tigers scored touchdowns on four out of the five trips inside the 20, and the only trip they didn’t score on came from the backups with less than a minute remaining.
LOUISIANA-MONROE: The Warhawks dropped their third consecutive game, but will get a chance to right themselves against Idaho on a more level playing field.
Auburn’s 36 first downs are the most since 2002 when the Tigers picked up 37 against Western Carolina, and three short of the school record.
AUBURN: Travels to Starkville to play Mississippi State next Saturday.
LOUISIANA-MONROE: Returns home to host Idaho next Saturday.