Saturday’s first half at Jordan-Hare Stadium had Auburn fans extremely frustrated and for good reason.
The opening 30 minutes sure felt like one team that completely out-matched the other, but at the end of the half the scoreboard read just 10-7.
The defense brought its A-game (or at least the B-game) despite playing without stalwarts Jeremiah Dinson and Marlon Davidson, but special teams miscues with a pair of missed field goals and long punt return given up, and the offense’s inability to convert in plus territory allowed the Rebels to hang around.
All that changed early in the third quarter as the Tigers matched their first-half point production on the first two drives of the second half. If the Tigers are going to beat a team like Georgia in two weeks they need type of performance that the Tigers produced immediately after intermission, not what the offense and the special teams showed in the first half or even later in the game.
The offense’s main issues in the first half revolved around the inability to finish drives. That was the case on two early drives ending in Anders Carlson missed long field goals. Freshman mistakes were also prevalent with a botched exchange or non-exchange between Bo Nix and DJ Williams resulted in a fumble. Nix was also fortunate to have an interception in the end zone on an under-thrown pick.
Those kind of mistakes won’t fly in two weeks when the Bulldogs come to town fresh off a big win over Florida in which they looked more like the team they were hyped to be in the preseason and less like the one that managed to drop a game against South Carolina.
In order to beat Georgia, the Tigers will require Nix’s best game of his young career. The true freshman has shown flashes, he has put up solid statistics in several games, but in two weeks, he needs to find the consistency that I’ve repeatedly harped on in this column in past weeks.
Like Florida and LSU, Georgia has the players to capitalize on Nix’s mistakes that Ole Miss simply didn’t. There is also an added onus on the offensive line to give its young quarterback time to pass that he didn’t have against LSU or Florida.
The healthy return of JaTarvious Whitlow to join the emerging Williams next to Nix in the backfield could help both the offensive line and Nix. While their skill sets overlap a bit, Whitlow and Williams should be able to keep each other fresh and allow Auburn to grind out some yardage.
The Auburn defense looks ready to knock off a top-10 team the next time they take the field, now the Auburn coaches and trainers have two weeks to get the offense healthy and ready not match the defense, but at least not sabotage the defense’s efforts.
With no Gatewood for the fans to call for and potentially with a healthy stable of running backs for the first time all year, it is time for Nix to live up to that preseason billing and get what Tiger fans hope is the first of many marquee SEC victories in an illustrious career.