Football By: Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. – Passing in the red zone presents a challenge since defenses needn’t be concerned about getting beat deep.
One way for offenses to counter that disadvantage is by having a dual-threat quarterback, a role Auburn’s Bo Nix capably fills.
In the Tigers’ 31-20 win vs. Ole Miss, Nix rushed for a pair of first-half touchdowns, giving him four for the season and 18 in his career.
“They were great play calls and we had them outnumbered,” said Nix, who also threw for 276 yards and a touchdown while completing 22 of 30 attempts.
“That happens when the O-line comes together and we give him the time he needs,” senior guard Brandon Council said. “He’s able to make stuff happen when he has time. “The O-line’s got this and we’re going to keep it rolling. We’re going to keep it rolling.”
After the game, most of the Tigers raced toward the student section to celebrate.
“It was a huge statement game,” Nix said. “Beating a top 10 team at home. There’s just nothing like it. It’s good for the program, it’s good for where we’re going.”
For the fourth time this season and the eighth time in his career, Tank Bigsby rushed for more than 100 yards.
“I knew I had a task to complete,” said Bigsby, who has rushed for 1,500 yards in two seasons to rank 34th in program history. “Coming into the game, Coach was telling us this game is going to come down to the running back room. We all put it in our head that it’s going to come down to us. We just ran hard.”
Bigsby scored his seventh touchdown of the season, the 17th of his career, on a 1-yard over-the-top dive late in the first quarter.
“I tried to do whatever it took to get in,” said Bigsby, who rushed 23 times for 140 yards. “I saw my linemen were down so I just jumped over them. I did whatever I had to do for my team so we could win that game.”
DEFENSE DAZZLES IN SECOND HALF
Bending but not breaking, Auburn’s defense allowed 250 yards in the second half but only three points, preserving the Tigers’ lead.
“We never back down,” said cornerback Roger McCreary, whose third-down pass breakup capped the first of two straight three-and-outs to start the second half. “I feel like we never let down with the communication. Coach Mason came up with a new scheme in the second half. That was great for us.
“We just played together and communicated. That was the main piece of the second half.”
The Tigers benefited from the open date before the Ole Miss game, says Jaylin Simpson, whose first career interception in the fourth quarter represented perhaps the game’s biggest play.
“A lot of tweaks and little humps that we had to get over,” Simpson said. “We got that all settled during that week and it showed up on the field.
“I just played my keys and did my job and the ball hit me right in the face. The Auburn defense is ready for anything coming at them. Doesn’t matter what you do, we’re going to be ready, period.”
CLIMBING IN THE POLLS
Auburn’s win impressed pollsters, with the Tigers climbing to No. 12 in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 14 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll.
“I’m really proud of this team coming off a bye week and putting in the work,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “They kept the same mentality in this game. I didn’t see anybody on the sideline flinch. Everybody had the right response in some critical moments to do what we needed to do to win the game. Overall, really good and I’m proud of our guys.
The Tigers kick off vs No. 13 Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday on CBS at Kyle Field in College Station.
“Every game is important to us,” Council said. “Every game is championship week. That’s what we go by. We’re playing every game like it’s the championship game.”