Good lord, y’all. I didn’t think that we’d end non-conference play with something that was more stressful than the visit to State College last week, BUT AUBURN HAD OTHER IDEAS.
Enjoy that, and brew on the thought that we’ve officially entered fall, so the Tigers decided to concoct some sort of pre-Halloween potion to make 2021 the weirdest year they could imagine. How else would we go from the murderous efficiency we saw against Akron, to the deadly precision of the third quarter against Alabama State, to coming within a hair of beating Penn State at their place, to what we saw yesterday?
Auburn fell behind 24-12 yesterday at halftime before coming back to win 34-24. The final score will betray how close it was, with TJ Finley spelling Bo Nix after the latter’s ineffective play at quarterback and leading the game-winning drive. Not only did he lead the game-winning drive, but he threw the winning touchdown on 4th and 9 from around the Georgia State 11, had to scramble away from two defenders, and threw on the run to a leaping Shedrick Jackson in the end zone. It wasn’t the least stressful 4th down play you could imagine.
So with the way the team looked on both sides of the ball in the first half, and the defense getting gashed by a dude whose first name is Tucker, to... oh, I don’t know, FIRING YOUR RECEIVERS COACH AFTER FOUR GAMES...
Cornelius Williams out as WR coach per @_JHokanson. The receivers have definitely struggled through 4 games, but firing a 1st year coach in a new regime before October is rash. Wonder if it’s something more than on-field performance?— Suni Lee County Residents (@CollegeAndMag) September 26, 2021
...WE’LL GET THERE, I PROMISE. But first, let’s answer our Burning Questions from the game preview article yesterday:
BURNING QUESTIONS (ANSWERED):
Which Bo Nix will we see? HA. We saw one that has regressed back to what we witnessed last year. He went 13-27 for 156 yards on the day before getting pulled in the third quarter. Now, 13 completions for 156 yards isn’t horrible, but he was throwing off of his back foot, rocketing balls where they needed touch, and overthrowing guys constantly. We’ve proven thus far that we don’t have the receivers to throw to a catch radius, but Bo didn’t seem to learn that yet. However, maybe after the firing today of wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams, it was less on him than we thought.
Will Derek Mason show the ability to adapt during the game? I hate that we even had to ask this question, but apparently it was a good one. Auburn got rinsed in the first half by the GSU rushing attack, and couldn’t track down quarterback Darren Grainger to save their lives. After halftime, however, the defense pitched a shutout and gave up only 85 total yards. Apparently that had nothing to do with scheme and everything with the space between ear holes. So, no Mason didn’t show any adaptation, and Auburn Twitter was calling for him to get canned mid-game during that first half.
Auburn DT Colby Wooden on the second half: "We were just flying around and doing our assignments. Coach Mason said after the game that he didn't change a single call... we just executed better."— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 26, 2021
What kind of a team comes out of the tunnel? ONE THAT DIDN’T SEEM TO CARE ONE BIT. I know that you’re probably a little let down after Penn State, and trying to look ahead to a game that many Auburn fans need to win for some sanity next week in LSU, but Auburn shouldn’t have been sniffed by Georgia State. Never should’ve been a game. They didn’t care, and it showed.
Gross. It was gross. Let’s start with the most pressing matter — the quarterback situation. It would be some Auburn dynamic to have TJ Finley go into Baton Rouge and beat the Tigers, his former team, thus breaking the 22 year winless streak in Death Valley. We learned some things about Bryan Harsin yesterday. Namely, he’s not afraid to tell you that you’re sucking and sit you down for a bit. Bo Nix got basically one shot after a first half that produced zero touchdowns, and when he didn’t produce to start the second half, Finley was sent in.
This video from The Auburn Student section right after the QB switch.— The Next Round (@NextRoundLive) September 25, 2021
TJ Finley got his shot with Auburn trailing Ga State.
(Video from TNR Student Reporter Ryan Hall) pic.twitter.com/ehee1x0fMe
I was reminded of the 2007 Mississippi State game (that we lost), when Brandon Cox could not figure out how to throw the ball to the blue jerseys and Kodi Burns got to come in. His first play was a two yard quarterback draw and the stadium went absolutely nuts. Finley was pretty good, though. He led the one offensive touchdown drive of the game, and converted some plays by using his legs to extend the action and find open receivers. There was one shot when Finley came into the game and he completed a pass (late third quarter I believe, his first completion to Capers) and the camera caught Ro Torrence (I think) on the sideline absolutely losing his shit with excitement. It was clear that the sideline enjoyed the pump that Finley brought into the game.
If I had to guess, I would say that Nix gets back into the starting spot before the end of the season, because I think he truly is our best shot to win the most games, but Harsin showed that he’s not afraid to pull a guy having a rough day.
Speaking of rough days, Georgia State didn’t seem to be afraid of our receivers one bit yesterday, and well, maybe that was part of the reason that we don’t have an actual wide receivers coach at this moment.
Cornelius Williams was fired today after just four games in the position, and there’s no definite word on why this happened, but rumors abound that it was due to an altercation of some sort due to the receivers not playing up to scratch so far this season. Whatever details lie in that vague description are still up for debate and may stay under wraps for the time being, This is multi-faceted, however. One, it underscores Harsin’s intolerance for people not doing their job. Williams had to be not holding his players accountable for mistakes and not coming down on them if they showed up unprepared or didn’t know the assignments, and Harsin took offense to that. Get on board, or get out. Unfortunately, unless the real story gets out, others will paint this as a picture against Auburn in recruiting, coaching hires, etc. Harsin hasn’t gotten the equity yet to be able to do that to someone without some consequences.
I really have no idea what to expect when we hit the road and head to Baton Rouge next week. Auburn would do something like come out and play like maniacs and end the streak with Finley at quarterback, but would also do something like fart around and look like the team is falling apart while extending that losing streak. Next week is an enormous matchup now, with the way the rest of the schedule is shaping up. Georgia looks fantastic, Arkansas and Ole Miss are borderline top ten good, and we still have A&M and Alabama. Auburn has to beat LSU for this to be a somewhat successful season, because we might not have many other wins down the stretch if we can’t get one this coming Saturday.