After starting slow and falling behind against Oregon in the first half, the light finally came on for the Tigers as they redoubled their efforts on defense and put together three crucial second-half drives to defeat the Ducks in a game with the energy of a playoff matchup.
Now comes the challenge of dialing back the emotions of the first game for the Tigers while not overlooking an opponent in Tulane that will come into Jordan-Hare Stadium with nothing to lose.
The first thing the Tigers need to focus on Saturday is themselves and building chemistry on the offensive line and between Bo Nix and the receivers.
Auburn's offensive line gave up far too many quarterback hurries (7) in the season-opener, a stat the Tigers can't afford to repeat this week as Nix continues to try to settle in as the starting quarterback.
Nix had a tough first half, but excelled down the stretch when a comeback was needed and the game was on the line, culminating in a game-winning throw to Seth Williams for 26 yards with nine seconds left to seal the win.
Nix has seemed to find his favorite option at wide receiver in Williams, who he targeted nine times, completing four for 41 yards, including a perfect strike on third and 10 and the game-winner on the final drive. The more the two can develop their chemistry against Tulane and Kent State, the better off the Tigers will be when they enter SEC play later this month.
The opportunity to polish up the passing game should be there against the Green Wave, which gave up 208 yards to FIU quarterback James Morgan in Tulane's season-opening 42-14 win. Nix will still need to be careful, though, against a Green Wave secondary that broke up seven passes last week.
The main concern for the Auburn defense will be LSU transfer quarterback Justin McMillan, who looked much sharper last week than at any point last season, completing almost 78 percent of his passes for 199 yards and two scores.
"He’s an unbelievably talented guy with a really strong arm," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who noted the Green Wave has won six of their last seven games.
The Auburn defensive line played well in the season-opener, plugging lanes and keeping the Ducks' running game generally in check. The line didn't fare as well in generating pressure behind the line of scrimmage, accounting for only one combined sack our of the Tigers' three on the night and generating no quarterback hurries. The Tigers will need to get much more pressure in the backfield to make McMillan uncomfortable.
Finally, Auburn needs to fix its problems on special teams, primarily in punt coverage, which allowed Oregon's Jevon Holland to return three punts for 131 yards, including a 81-yarder in the second quarter that could have resulted in an easy score for the Ducks if not for a mishandled handoff that resulted in a fumble and a 83-yard return by Big Kat Bryant.
"We’ve got to cover better; that’s really the bottom line," Malzahn said. "They did a good job of holding us up and we did a poor job of covering. That’s definitely one of our biggest things that we are addressing this week."
Overall, the Tigers should focus on cleaning up their mistakes from last week while not taking lightly the challenge posed by McMillan, and they should be just fine and pick up an easy win the home-opener.
Auburn 45, Tulane 13.