SYRACUSE — The Maroons knew entering this season it would take a committee of running backs to effectively run their offense. 

Through one game, that approach worked to perfection.

Auburn football racked up over 300 yards on the ground en route to a 50-0 victory over Ithaca in the 2017 Kickoff Classic Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. It is the second straight year the Maroons have won their season opener. 

“We’re real happy for our kids. They were excited about tonight and it was a special night for them,” Auburn coach Dave Moskov said. “They’ve been looking forward to this since the spring. To get out there, perform and execute plays, and work together as a team … I’m happy for them.”

Dajour Morris rushed for 164 yards and one touchdown on nine carries, while Deon Clark added 62 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Quashar Bowman (three carries, 33 yards) and Griffin Schoenfelder (four carries, 21 yards) also recorded rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback Liam Schulz was 4-for-5 with 61 yards and two touchdown passes — one to Evan Donovan (two receptions, 37 yards) and the other to Shaheed Beal (one reception, nine yards).

On defense, Mitch Hulik and Tyrese Smith unofficially finished with five tackles apiece, while Te Hari Campbell recorded a sack and blocked a punt.

A year ago, Auburn featured one of Section III’s top running backs in Nasir Smith, but Smith departed due to graduation. Now Auburn utilizes a handful of different runners that compliment each other’s styles. Morris, Bowman and Schoenfelder possess the speed element, while the fullback Clark runs with an attitude.

“That was the game plan in terms of those guys going in there and us rotating them in,” Moskov said. “We were proud because they just stuck to the game plan. The offensive line blocked well and it’s nice when you can have a plan and the plan works. It doesn’t always happen but tonight it did.”

Added Clark, “We have some great backs and they can go in and make plays whenever. Then there’s me and I can do a little myself too. It’s a rotation at fullback and running back and it’s great.”

On its first drive, Auburn methodically moved down the field with a nine-play drive that was capped off by Clark’s three-yard run up the middle. The Maroons turned to their home run hitter on the second drive, as Morris broke a number of tackles to score from 75 yards out to put Auburn in front 14-0 with 4:35 left in the opening quarter. The Maroons tacked on three more touchdowns, with two coming through the air, to go ahead 38-0 midway through the game.

Auburn scored on five of its six possessions in the first half — the only time the Maroons offense was stopped was by the halftime buzzer. The Maroons played ball control in the second half but still added two more scores to go in front 50-0.

Defensively, Auburn didn’t allow Ithaca to gain a single first down as the defense overwhelmed the Little Red offensive line. Ithaca’s offense struggled to open up holes in the running game, while the passing game was a non-factor.

“We had kids going both ways and that shows the level of their conditioning,” Moskov said. “They don’t come off the field, and we’ll keep running them out there because in Class AA we’re going to face a lot of teams that are one-way kids. Tonight they certainly dominated the trenches and that was real important for us.”

It was the 51st time the two programs have met in a rivalry dating back to 1891. It’s the second-oldest rivalry in New York, although the teams have only met twice since 1966 prior to Saturday’s game. The last meeting occurred in 1990.

“I think Ithaca has a young squad and got down a little bit,” Moskov said. “For us, we just said we have to execute our plays. We have a long season ahead of us with one more non-league game and then we’re into league play against some brutal schools.

“In terms of the rivalry, it’s something that’s a great part of history and the kids were able to experience a little bit of that tonight.”

Auburn (1-0) travels to Jamesville-DeWitt on Friday.

Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at justin.ritzel@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.

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