It was clear from the very beginning that Auburn would not have much trouble in their season opener against the Akron Zips. The Tigers did whatever they wanted on offense, scoring on every possession that the first team was in the ball game. Similarly, the defense didn’t allow the visitors into Auburn territory until they were leading by more than fifty points.
This performance doesn’t announce to the world that Auburn is ready for primetime, but it did show that they can do what they are supposed to against an overmatched opponent: dominate.
New Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin has to be pleased that his team handled business in a clean and efficient manner in the season debut. The Tigers avoided turnovers completely on offense and committed minimal penalties overall as a team. Senior kicker Anders Carlson did miss an extra point, but that is one of the only mistakes that stand out from the game.
It seemed from the jump that Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is comfortable in the new offensive system and poised to show improvement in his junior campaign. Nix completed 20 of 22 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns against Akron. This was the most effective and efficient performance of the quarterback’s Auburn career.
While Nix was attacking mainly through the air, Auburn’s stellar running back Tank Bigsby was slicing through the Zips’ defense for 119 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. Bigsby was great as usual, and the Auburn offensive line paved the way for tailbacks Shaun Shivers and Jarquez Hunter to have great success as well. It was a balanced offensive performance that everyone involved can build upon.
On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense set the tone with its front. Derrick Hall and TD Moultry screamed off the edges, while defensive linemen like Colby Wooden, Marcus Harris and Zykevious Walker slashed through the interior of the Akron offense. The Zips rarely impeded the Auburn defensive line, but on the occasions that they did, linebackers Owen Pappoe and Zakoby McClain tracked down ball carriers relentlessly.
Auburn’s secondary was not challenged at all early in the game in large part because of the pressure that the defensive front generated. The back end of the Tigers’ defense did give up some yardage late in the game, but they were never beaten deep down the field or for big plays.
All in all, this performance is exactly what Auburn coaches, players and fans wanted to see to kick off the Bryan Harsin era. The Tigers showed themselves to be well-prepared and capable of executing exactly what was asked of them.
Auburn’s trouncing of Akron will help build the confidence of a team that will need to play at a very high level against much better competition in the future in order to accomplish their goals for the season. The Tigers’ win against Akron certainly doesn’t guarantee that will happen, but it is the first step in the journey.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.