Auburn traveled to Penn State looking for its first road win against a Top 10 team from a conference other than the SEC since 1984.
The Tigers will have to keep looking.
As the visitors, Auburn went into an electric environment and came up short.
The Tigers were able to take the lead in the second quarter 10-7, but once they fell behind Auburn was unable to ever get back ahead of the Nittany Lions.
There will be some positive takeaways for Auburn, but ultimately the Tigers were unable to get it done and come away victorious in Happy Valley.
Here are a few key takeaways from Auburn’s 28-20 loss to Penn State:
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford had a stellar performance tonight against Auburn, while Bo Nix was largely unable to lead an effective passing attack for the Tigers.
Clifford completed 29 of 33 pass attempts against Auburn for 302 yards and two touchdowns. This is a pretty shocking occurrence considering he has completed only about 60% of his career passing attempts.
Auburn did not sack the Penn State quarterback once and was only able to get pressure on him a couple of times on the night.
On the other side of the field, Auburn’s Bo Nix completed just over 50% of his passes and was unable to make any big plays through the air in the second half.
However, the Tigers’ anemic passing game definitely does not fall on Bo Nix solely. The Auburn receivers were not capable of getting open consistently or making many contested catches.
In the end, the Nittany Lions were able to successfully throw the ball and Auburn was not.
It seems that Penn State was able to generate situations where their receivers were running wide open on a regular basis. At least one of those occasions arose from a gimmick formation in which Auburn did not recognize that an eligible receiver was lined up as an offensive tackle.
The fact that Auburn did not blitz very much indicates that the plan was to devote more men to coverage. The concerning development about this strategy is that the Tigers were turning people loose in coverage while also not pressuring the quarterback.
The combination of soft coverage and light pass rush led to a very successful night for the Penn State passing offense.
Auburn must improve its ability to slow down opposing passing attacks in order to have more success in the future.
Football can be a cruel game. Auburn had exactly one wide receiver that had a good night in the passing game. Sophomore wide receiver Kobe Hudson made a contested catch and then great run in the first half and eventually led the Tigers in receiving with 66 yards.
Unfortunately, the play that will stand out from this game was the first snap of the opening drive in the second half. Auburn offensive coordinator Mike Bobo called a play that led to Kobe Hudson taking a handoff on a reverse and then attempt to throw down the field.
On the play, Penn State apparently covered the receiving options, leading Hudson to make the choice to tuck the ball and run. As the Auburn receiver tried to move the ball from one hand to another, he simply dropped the ball and a Penn State defender recovered the fumble.
That turnover gave the ball to Penn State on the Auburn 20 yard line. Four plays later the home team would punch in a touchdown and take a 21-10 lead that they would never relinquish.
Auburn would fight back and score a touchdown on the next possession. The Tigers kept it a one score game throughout the second half, but could never even the score or take the lead.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.