The question arose Bo Nix for nearly nine months.
Can young midfielder Auburn take the next step after an unpromising freshman campaign?
If Saturday is any indication, Nix’s answer to that question is one that Auburn and his fans love – and one that could cause concern for those on the Tigers schedule. During Auburn’s No. 8 opening season win against No. 23 Kentucky, Nix garnered a strong sophomore debut, completing 16-of-27 passes for 233 yards and three goals at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He also led the team in rushed speeds and averaged 6.8 yards per carry while making several heads-up decisions with his feet.
“I thought from the start I got some finishes to start the game and then that kept us going,” said Nix. “… The flow of play is a little slower so it’s difficult to stay on rhythm, but every time we are out there on the pitch, we do a good job getting some finishes and starting the drive.”
Nix’s start was unlucky, failing to shoot on two of his first three passes but soon finding his rhythm in the afternoon. He suffered a back-to-back flop only once against Kentucky, had 12 of his 16 finishes resulting in a first down or touchdown and had second-half surgery when Chad Morris’ new-looking foul found his footing.
Nix completed 10 of his 16 passing attempts after halftime, averaging 18.1 yards per finish over the past two quarters. That’s when he threw all three of his goals too – two spectacular plays by Seth Williams within reach and then a 21-yard shot at Eli Stove that put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
The first for Williams, who gave Auburn a 15-7 lead in the third quarter, really stood out, as he threw a throw from his hind leg and put him where he only needed. junior receivers – who finished with six receptions for 112 yards and two scores – could play. One shot at Stove, coach Gus Malzahn said, was a “perfect shot”.
“I think he made some incredible throws,” said Malzahn. “… For them to go there against a really good defense, and you talk about a defense that had most of their players back and they were one of the best in the country last year in bait defense. So, for us to get yards passing, and I think Chad does a really good job mixing the run. They are a great defense. “
Nix finished the day with his second career match with three passing goals, which previously only reached that mark against Arkansas last season. He also saw his finishing percentage increase slightly from his 57.6 per cent last season’s clip and finish with a midfielder rating of 168.4, a figure he has crossed only three times last season – in wins against Kent State, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
“You know, there is no doubt, no questioning – he knows what he wants,” said Malzahn.
It was a promising start for Nix to build on his second campaign as he continued to adjust and acclimate to Morris’s offense. Because Malzahn was quick to put things into perspective after the game: Nix only had six weeks to get into the swing of things with the new system and worked straight with Morris, who has a track record of maximizing his quarterback.
Nix said after the game that Morris kept things pretty basic against Kentucky – the offensive coordinator stuck to what he felt the Tigers could do most successfully in their first game since New Year’s Day. In other words, Nix could just scratch the surface of his abilities this season.
“Yeah, I think Bo, he really likes this offense,” said Williams. “I think we have a lot to do with it.”
Tom Green is an Auburn hitting reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Video
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