The Bryan Harsin era got off to a much better start than I think even we believed despite the fact that we were beginning with Akron, a team ranked lower than there are spots in the FBS. Auburn rolled from the start, and the first team pitched a perfect game (sans one extra point) before the backups came in and did very well on their own. In the end, the 60-10 result turned out to be a much more efficient and powerful start to the season than we expected.
Normally, we’d come to expect a rather laissez faire attitude under Gus Malzahn in some of these games. In our Snap Judgments, I believe it was AU Nerd that said we didn’t just spam the same four or five plays over and over again, but attacked the Zips out of multiple formations and schemes. Let’s check the highlights!
I think the most evident improvement right away was clear to most everyone — Bo Nix was a much more poised quarterback than we’ve seen over the past two seasons. He finished 20-22 for 275 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no turnovers. He wasn’t sacked. He wasn’t rushed. He didn’t scramble at the first sniff of trouble. Once could almost say...
Auburn beat writers are the absolute worst. pic.twitter.com/RbtaKaCS3Y— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) September 4, 2021
...that this is the year. He’s having fun, or whatever the verbiage is. In all seriousness, he was much better than we all hoped for. To let you behind the curtain, a certain Slack group for a certain blog may have surmised that he might have trouble the first two weeks, and have his job relinquished in Happy Valley. If last night was any indication, that’s not going to happen. He hit short throws, mid-range throws, and deep bombs. What might be even more comforting is that the receivers were extremely confident, with tons of distribution among the starters in terms of catches.
Actually, sorry, the most surprising thing from last night is the inclusion of the tight end position in the passing game. John Samuel Shenker got the start at the position and tied for the team lead with 5 catches. At that rate, he’ll end up with 60 grabs just in the regular season, which would end up tied for the third-best single season total in school history.
Recent Auburn tight ends watching this game pic.twitter.com/EZkE2CNvRI— Drunk Aubie (@DrunkAubie) September 5, 2021
Last night was great in multiple areas, not least of all was the atmosphere with a full stadium. We got to witness the fun as a family again, and you could tell from Tank’s first touchdown run that the emotion of playing in front of everyone again was cathartic.
Auburn had a ton of lettermen back in attendance, including Derrick Brown, but others supported from afar. You know, just the guys that were using Auburn as a springboard to the next level...
While there’s not quite as much to say about beating Akron, since they are blatantly unqualified to compete in such an atmosphere, it was evident that the coaching (just over a single offseason) paid dividends. Auburn was clean, with just a single pre-snap penalty, and 3 total infractions for 25 yards. Akron didn’t get to Bo Nix or T.J. Finley, and Auburn allowed just 2 tackles for loss. On the other side, we didn’t even get to see what the defensive backs were made of, because the Auburn defensive line was so intense. Newcomer Marcus Harris was a blur, recording his first sack, and T.D. Moultry showed out as the five-star player we’ve expected for years now. Perhaps not having the overbearing personality of Rodney Garner is a little easier to manage, and he certainly improved last night, recording a trio of TFLs and tying for the overall lead in tackles with Zakoby McClain.
A couple of my favorite numbers defensively:
- Akron had -3 rushing yards, counting a total of 6 sacks for -28 yards.
- The Zips converted two third downs on their opening drive. They went 1-12 after that. On that opening drive, they moved 22 yards in 6 plays. On the next 6 plays, they went backward 22 yards.
And on the offensive side too:
- Auburn ran 59 plays and notched 613 total yards (10.2 yards per play).
- Tank Bigsby ran for 119 yards on 13 carries (9.2 yards per carry), but that was the fifth-highest yards per carry average on the team. Jarquez Hunter (12.2 ypc), Shaun Shivers (12.0 ypc), Sean Jackson (11.0 ypc), and Bo Nix (10.7 ypc) all had higher averages than the best running back in the SEC. Also, Jarquez Hunter, my goodness, he’s going to be hilariously fun.
Also, after a day of watching other teams around the land struggle with lesser competition, many of us were thinking that the Tigers were going to have at least a little trouble with the Zips. That didn’t happen. At all. And despite the level of competition, Auburn looked crisp and more ready for the 2021 season than many of the other SEC teams.
- Texas A&M led Kent State just 10-3 at halftime, and despite winning 41-17, new quarterback starter Haynes King tossed three interceptions in his debut.
- Florida took quite some time to get going, leading FAU just 14-0 at halftime, and now they seem to have a quarterback controversy on their hands with the running prowess of backup Anthony Richardson. Emory Jones completed 17 passes for only 113 yards with a pair of interceptions.
- It took a 21-0 fourth quarter for Arkansas to escape Rice, yikes.
- Similarly, it took a 21-0 burst from Mississippi State to overcome Louisiana Tech 35-34, and the Bulldogs missed the game-winning field goal as time expired in Starkville.
- Missouri was locked in a tight game with Central Michigan, leading 17-14 at halftime.
- Poor Vanderbilt lost by 20 to ETSU, 23-3, ruining Clark Lea’s debut in Nashville.
- And, oh, LSU. Can’t pull an Ed Orgeron and then follow it up with that performance.
The Bayou Bengals fell 38-27 to UCLA, and Max Johnson threw for 330 yards, but they ran for only 49 yards on 25 carries. That ain’t your daddy’s LSU.
Think LSU misses Joe Burrow? pic.twitter.com/QtDyyzGlPP— SportzStew Ⓥ (@sportzstewcom) September 5, 2021
On our end, the game got so out of hand that the broadcast had to resort to a multitude of topics.
the announcers are currently raving over the shark coochie boards at Acre— Grief Counseling is Back (@sheabooskyy) September 4, 2021
And while there was a ton of debate on Bryan Harsin due to everything COVID over the past couple of weeks, he turned the tide of public opinion last night with clean the team looked and how business-like they were in unzipping Akron.
Here’s the deal, we’re going to have another one of these games next Saturday with Alabama State coming in. The Hornets beat the Miles Golden Bears 14-13 last night in overtime, and will provide a less stiff challenge than the Zips did. It’s more opportunity to work on everything and get fully in rhythm by the time we head to Happy Valley.
I like starting off with this kind of a schedule. Highly recommend it. War Eagle!