Bo Nix could’ve shrugged in his shoulder pads.
Auburn’s offense is finally firing at full speed. On touchdown after touchdown last Saturday night, the Tigers flashed that ability, racing by defenders, leaping through the air to catch pinpoint passes, and rolling up points to delight of the cheering fans.
For the freshman quarterback, those explosive plays were nothing unexpected.
He knows what his teammates are capable of doing.
“As a quarterback, you’re only as good as your weapons — and we have a bunch of them,” Nix said after Auburn’s trouncing of Mississippi State last Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
This week, No. 7 Auburn shifts its attention to a top-10 showdown at No. 10 Florida, but does so with an offensively seemingly clicking on almost all cylinders, finally at full strength on the injury report and finally showing off, in front of thousands, just what the Tigers have the potential to do on offense under Gus Malzahn.
Five different players on offense scored touchdowns last Saturday in Auburn’s 56-23 win, including two who’ve been limited earlier this season, as Nix fired with efficiency that was a step above and the Tigers rolled up big numbers.
Seth Williams caught two touchdown passes after missing the Kent State game in mid-September. Anthony Schwartz ran in a touchdown for a second straight game after being limited earlier in recovery from preseason hand surgery on his hand.
With them back in place, Nix threw for a season-high 335 yards on a season-best 76.2-percent completion percentage — and it’s having those weapons around him, the young quarterback said, that makes all the difference for him.
“It’s huge,” Nix said, “because one of the two is always on the field. They’re both really good players, and defenses have to play them differently — and so we just find ways to use them.”
Auburn did just that last Saturday. Williams caught eight passes for 161 yards and two scores. Schwartz finished with 92 total yards from scrimmage, and his first-quarter touchdown run which put Auburn up 21-0 and all over the Bulldogs.
JaTarvious Whitlow scored three touchdowns, and Nix ran in another along with Kam Martin, as the Auburn offense powered past the goal line on each of its first five drives of the game and on seven of its first eight.
“We finally have all the pieces of the puzzle on the field,” Malzahn said Sunday. “We hadn’t had that till last week. So now, you know, we can start getting some consistency, especially in practice. Our quarterback hasn’t had the time to develop the timing that you really need. So we’re kind of doing that as the season goes.
“Now that we have all the pieces to the puzzle, it really gives you more flexibility to call what you want to call.”
Nix’s numbers rocketed with all those pieces in place. With 335 yards he topped his previous season-high of 207 passing yards against Tulane by a whopping 128 yards. He hit 75-percent of his passes in Auburn’s rout over Kent State, but outside that, the 60-percent efficiency he threw with at Texas A&M was his best this season until he hit 76.2-percent of his passes against Mississippi State.
Williams left that Tulane game with a shoulder injury and did not play against Kent State. He played at Texas A&M but Malzahn stressed then that he gutted through injury and was not at 100-percent.
Last Saturday was more like it, when he raced away from Mississippi State defenders on a 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter, which saw Nix hit him in stride at the 15 on the way to the end zone — before his highlight-reel, 32-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter made over a Mississippi State defender.
“Having all our weapons, having everybody healthy, it’s definitely a big advantage — because, I mean, those guys are phenomenal athletes,” said tight end Spencer Nigh, who paved the way for Nix on his touchdown run in the first quarter. “They do some crazy things. I’m just glad to be a part of it, helping them be successful.”
Now, the Tigers have all those athletes seemingly soaring at the same time — at just the right time on the way down to a marquee matchup in Gainesville.
“We have a lot more than we’re really even using right now,” Nix said of those weapons. “So the pieces are there and we’re really finding a way to put them together.”