Bo Nix has jumped for joy after making the big play.
He’s also hung his head after making mistakes.
But either way, he’s learning.
Gus Malzahn says he’s seen his true freshman quarterback make the most of his on-field experience so far in his young Auburn career, adjusting, correcting, and making good out of the bad in two games as Auburn’s starting quarterback during a 2-0 start.
“I think every snap he has, he learns from it,” Malzahn said in his press conference Sunday night, taking one last look back at Auburn’s 24-6 win over Tulane on Saturday night. “That’s probably the best way to put it.
“He’s real hard on himself,” he said, painting the picture of Nix’s walks to sideline after some of Auburn’s struggles against the Green Wave. “He wasn’t real happy. But he did do some good things.”
Auburn continues its season Saturday against Kent State.
Last Saturday against Tulane, Nix finished 19-of-37 with 207 passing yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Auburn’s offense struggled through three three-and-outs over the course of its first four series in Saturday’s first quarter, on the team’s way to holding just a one-score halftime lead at 14-6.
Nix threw two interceptions in the season opener against Oregon, before firing the game-winning touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds to go in the game.
He cut those turnovers down to zero against Tulane.
“He made some really good throwaways on some downs that could’ve been negative plays,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a gift of getting out of trouble and throwing the ball away.
“I think it’s just a matter of him being more comfortable as we go. I expect him to do that.”
Nix showed a bit of that frustration with himself after the game. “Obviously, I’ve got to play better,” he said postgame.
Auburn turned to him more than the coaches would’ve liked in the first half. Auburn rushed for just 20 yards on 13 carries in the game’s first half, and averaging 1.5 yards per carry then, the Tigers asked their freshman to throw 29 first-half passes.
In the second half, Auburn adjusted and got the run game going—and presumably, Nix made the proper adjustments he was asked to make, as well, as Auburn pulled away for the win.
“I think it’s just a matter of, you know, just getting used to everything and getting used to playing college football against talented defenses and everything that goes with that. But like I said, he’s a quick learner,” Malzahn said Sunday.
“And, usually, if you tell him, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we do this the next time,’ he catches on really quick — and everything that goes with that.”
Nix finished Saturday’s game throwing for a 51-percent completion percentage.
After those struggles in those first four series — which ended with three three-and-outs and a lost fumble — Nix helped kick-start the offense with 31-yard touchdown pass from Will Hastings, that put Auburn up 7-3 after giving up an early lead.
Even through the ups and downs, the talent he’s shown is apparent, against a touted Oregon team and a Tulane team that won six of its last seven games entering Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday.
But he hasn’t touched his full potential on the Plains.
Malzahn said his coaches will also focus on scramble drills this week — and making the most on Nix’s ability to run to pass, which is unlike much of anything the Tigers have had in other recent quarterbacks.
“We’re learning Bo, and he’s learning the offenses as he goes. And he can extend plays,” Malzahn said. “Anytime you can extend plays, a lot of times those broken plays can turn into scramble drills and you get some cheap ones.
“So we’ll continue to work extremely hard with our rules and (getting) everybody on the same page in those situations.”
Nix is something new.
The Tigers are still getting used to him — and he’s still getting used to the big stage.