Well, it wasn’t a very pretty start for Auburn on Saturday, but head coach Bryan Harsin found a way to lock things down and get his team straightened out. After a first half riddled with penalties, dropped passes and a stagnant offensive movement the Tigers exploded in the second half where they scored 35 points.
Here are three takeaways from Auburn’s 62 – 0 win over Alabama State.
#1: The defense is improved from 2020
Through two games in the 2021 season Auburn has only allowed 10 points and 364 yards. Team captains Chandler Wooten and Owen Pappoe have locked down the linebacker department for the Tigers, with senior Zakoby McClain rounding out a veteran corps of linebackers for Derek Mason’s defense. Pappoe, Wooten and McClain finished with 20 tackles and three tackles for a loss among the three of them.
The Tiger defense held Akron to negative three rushing yards last Saturday, and limited Alabama State to under 50 yards rushing. Auburn finished eighth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game last year, so seeing a turnaround of this magnitude is impressive to say the least.
#2: Tap the brakes on Bo Nix
The junior quarterback shocked Auburn fans last week when he completed 20-22 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in just over 30 minutes of gametime. Nix looked rough at the start of the matchup with Alabama State, completing 8-16 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled while driving in Alabama State territory, negating an impressive return by receiver Demetris Robertson and taking away an opportunity to put more points on the board before halftime.
Nix didn’t play much in the second half, delegating much of the work to his running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter before he was pulled, but it will be key to next week’s matchup against Penn State to see which version of Nix will show up; The three touchdowns in a half against Akron version of the three near-interceptions version.
#3: Jarquez Hunter is the steal of the 2021 recruiting class.
The true freshman from Philadelphia, Mississippi has shown through two games that he can be a feature back, leading the team in rushing yards and is tied with Bigsby for most rushing touchdowns. The former three-star recruit also set the record for the longest run in Auburn football history with his 94-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, breaking a record that had been in place since 1936.
Hunter and Bigsby can become a monster combination if Hunter continues to develop. Having two bruising runners would work wonders from the Auburn offense in the long run, especially with SEC play right around the corner. Running back Shaun Shivers didn’t dress on Saturday for the Tigers, so that will be something to watch for next week.