Bo Nix turned and ran.
He had nowhere to go. He was surrounded by thousands towering around in the rumbling Swamp — then by three of the fierce Gators themselves. He fell helplessly to the ground, and a roar rang out over Gainesville, Fla.
Nix made mistakes Saturday, like that 22-yard sack with 10 minutes left which helped ice Florida’s 24-13 win over Auburn.
On the field where his father, Patrick Nix, won a legendary game 25 years ago in 1994, the son felt the sinking feeling of defeat unlike anything else he’s ever been through.
Just like his father, though, Bo still has the chance to make his game in The Swamp one of the defining moments of his career.
It’s up to Bo to learn and grow from his first college loss.
“It was a learning experience, there’s no doubt about that,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday back in Auburn.
Nix, Malzahn and the rest of the Tigers are back on the Plains recovering from their fall to 5-1 over the weekend in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. They turned the page Sunday with a practice and those first steps made toward improving over the bye week coming for Auburn this week.
Auburn’s next game is Oct. 19 at Arkansas.
“I think anytime coming off a loss this big, and a loss that hurts this much, I think it’s good to regroup,” Nix said outside the stadium as the sun set over Florida around him.
“I know we’ll regroup, we’ll come back and we’ll be a good team again.”
Nix was trying to extend the play on that sack, scrambling this way and that before falling down to the ground for a big loss. He threw three interceptions. On his first, early in the second quarter, he adjusted his feet to move around the Florida pass rush and after the hesitation seemed to still try to fire a pass to Sal Cannella on the sideline hard enough to zip it past the Florida safety.
It could’ve worked last year at Pinson Valley High — just like that scrambling in the fourth — but not in the SEC, and not in The Swamp.
Nix will have to learn and adapt. And he’s by no means the only member of the Auburn program making a change this week behind closed doors during the bye week.
“The bottom line is, I’ve got to put him in better situations moving forward,” Malzahn said during his press conference Sunday. He’s put the offense’s struggles at Florida squarely on his shoulders ever since the loss.
“It was a learning experience, that, we’ll be better for it the next time we get in that type of environment.”
That’ll be Oct. 26 in Death Valley.
After this week’s, Auburn plays two straight road games at Arkansas and then at LSU before returning home for its next home game against Ole Miss on Nov. 2.
“I think there’s a lot of things that affected him,” Malzahn said of Nix — his true freshman quarterback thrown into the fire against one of college football’s most feared home-field advantages. “That’s a tough environment. We had some communication things and all that.
“The big thing I learned from it is I have to put him in better situations. Like I said, he’s a true freshman, guys,” he shrugged at the podium. “He’s still learning every time and that’s one of the best environments to play in. It wouldn’t have mattered if you had a fifth-year quarterback — that’s a tough environment. So, that’s a learning experience.”
Nix finished 11 for 27 with 145 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. His second proved costly, pulled down by the Florida defense in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. He didn’t appear to see that particular defensive back on the play.
But Nix is Auburn’s man. Malzahn said he didn’t consider pulling him for backup Joey Gatewood during the game. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Seth Williams against Oregon in the season opener, and led Auburn to five straight wins to start the season.
“He’s going to improve, he’s a winner and like I said, I’m going to do a better job moving forward putting him in situations that can help him,” Malzahn said. “That’s my goal, that’s my job and we’ll do that moving forward.”