I’ve got to say, that was incredibly satisfying to watch.
Auburn had absolutely no trouble with the Akron Zips tonight in Bryan Harsin’s first game, as the Tigers rolled easily 60-10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers looked exceptionally clean and prepared for a season opener, while the starters made hardly any mistakes and scored on every drive they ran. Auburn didn’t punt until the final minutes of the third quarter, and the team exhibited a business-like focus and got started quickly and efficiently.
Bo Nix had one of his statistical best games as a Tiger, hitting 20-22 passes for 3 touchdowns and no turnovers, while the Tiger running game averaged 10.2 yards per carry, including 100-yard efforts from Tank Bigsby and freshman Jarquez Hunter. Shaun Shivers added a pair of touchdowns, and Bo Nix spread the ball around to all of the new faces at receiver.
Meanwhile, defensively, things were fantastic, as Auburn’s pass rush was relentless with 3 first half sacks and a 0.6 yards per carry average allowed to the Zips. Zakoby McClain was everywhere again, racking up tackle after tackle, and the new faces on the defensive line made an immediate impact with Marcus Harris and Tony Fair providing plenty of disruption in the middle.
Akron took the ball to start the game and went 22 yards on the first 6 plays, converting two third downs and moving close to midfield. On the next 6 plays they went backward 22 yards and Auburn notched a pair of sacks. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ first drive began at their own 35-yard line, and after a pair of connections from Bo Nix to Shedrick Jackson, resulted in a 32-yard Tank Bigsby touchdown run over left end.
That drive set the entire mood for the night, even though Anders Carlson missed the extra point, as=nd Auburn’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Nix went back to work. Auburn drove down inside the 20, and the Nix swung a little pass to Shaun Shivers, who barreled in from 19 yards out for the second touchdown of the night. 13-0 Tigers with 1:14 left in the opening period.
Akron moved the ball a bit in the closing minute of the first quarter, but faced a fourth down in their own territory and decided to go for it. Auburn stopped Anthony Williams behind the line, he fumbled, and it was recovered beyond the line, but the officials awarded the Tigers the ball since only the fumbler can recover the ball on fourth down. On the first play of the second quarter, Bo Nix went deep for the first time and found Ja’Varrius Johnson wide open for a 34-yard score.
Auburn led 20-0 after that score, and didn’t take its foot off the gas at all. After stopping the Zips again, the Tigers started at their own 8-yard line. Nix found Shedrick Jackson for a 42-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and took only 6 plays to travel the length of the field before Nix hit Kobe Hudson for a 28-yard touchdown.
Leading 27-0, Auburn stopped the Zips again on fourth down and took 9 plays to ramble 45 yards, finishing the drive with Tank Bigsby’s second touchdown (FROM THE I FORMATION, NONETHELESS) to push the Tiger lead to 34-0.
After another Akron punt, Auburn started deep in its own end once more, and went 65 yards in just 8 plays, taking 64 seconds off the clock so that Anders Carslon could end the half with a 44-yard field goal. After two quarters, the Tigers led by the spread, 37-0.
FIRST HALF NUMBERS —
Auburn got the ball to start the second half, with the starters still playing. Tank Bigsby ripped off a 31-yard gain before Shaun Shivers capped the drive on a wide open 26-yard touchdown run to make it 44-0 Tigers with 12:49 to play in the third quarter. The score kept ticking up when Akron sailed a snap over the punter’s head and out of the back of the endzone to push the margin to 46-0. After that, the Tigers got the ball and brought in T.J. Finley as Bo Nix’s night ended with a 20-22 line.
Finley’s first drive started with two huge runs from freshman Jarquez Hunter, and Finley pounded it in from a yard out (in a very Cam-like reminiscence) to push the lead to 53-0. Akron was able to notch a touchdown in the fourth quarter to break the shutout and get on the board, and they added a field goal in the closing minutes against the backups as well. That didn’t stop Auburn, though, and Jarquez Hunter led the backups to a final drive with some tough running as he scored his first career touchdown. Final margin - 60-10, Auburn.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Bo Nix - Man, this guy looked crisp. I know we’ve seen a few games here and there where he had similar output (MSU 2019), but there was a distinct lack of sloppiness, that hesitation/agitation combo that we saw throughout the past two years, and the skittishness to go out and get away from the rush. The upperclassman version of Bo Nix, uh, forgive me, but looked much improved under this new offense. He was focused. He was having fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a dark horse for the Heisman. In all seriousness, he was fantastic tonight, really only missing one pass (one of his two incompletions was a drop), and he was authoritative, planting his feet, accurate, didn’t overthrow anyone, and ran the offense to literal perfection, scoring on every drive he led. Final line, 20-22, 276 yards, 3 touchdowns. Great start to his junior season.
T.D. Moultry - Look at this dude! I guess the new staff had the right effect, because he looked more motivated and ready to play than he ever did under Rodney Garner. Early on he was chasing the Akron backs laterally, and setting things up for his linebackers to clean up. He was big, fast, and finished the night with 7 tackles and 3 TFLs.
Auburn gets to enjoy another similar warmup game before the road trip to Penn State. Alabama State visits for a hot big morning kickoff at 11 AM CST/12 PM CST. That game can be seen on the regular SEC Network, not SEC Network+.