Auburn Football: Grading the Tigers 28-20 loss to Penn State

Auburn football fans are not happy the Penn State game Week 3 won't be at night Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn football fans are not happy the Penn State game Week 3 won't be at night Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3

Auburn football suffered their first loss of the Bryan Harsin era in Happy Valley this weekend as Penn State escaped with a 28-20 win to move to 3-0 on the season. There were plenty of opportunities for the Tigers to win the game, but costly mistakes down the stretch prevented the Tigers from getting the Top-10 win on the road.

After two wins against Akron & Alabama State; many questions about Auburn football were answered, but many new questions arose after this weekend’s game.

The Tigers’ offense was able to establish the rushing game behind Tank Bigsby’s impressive performance, but the passing game left much to be desired at times throughout the game. The defense played well at times, but coverage breakdowns and a lackluster pass rush ultimately doomed the Tigers.

Here is Fly War Eagle’s report card for Auburn football this weekend:

Quarterbacks: C

Bo Nix played much better than some of his previous road starts as the Auburn QB, but he was still inefficient at times and failed to deliver on the deep ball multiple times. Nix completed 56% of his passes (21/37) for 185 passing yards, but only averaged 5 yards per attempt for the night and that is never going to be enough to knock off a Top-10 team on the road.

Nix was effective in third-down situations though, which kept the Tigers in this game down the stretch. Nix was 8/11 for 100 yards and created 6 first downs for the Auburn offense, which helped the Tigers stay on the field.

If Nix could have found a way to push the ball down the field, then this grade could be much higher than it currently sits, but the third-year starting QB has yet to show he can bring his A-game away from Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Running Backs: A+

The best positional unit of this weekend was easily the running backs, which was led by Tank Bigsby’s third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance of this season. Tank Bigsby was touted to be the best RB in College Football by Pro Football Focus this preseason and he has absolutely lived up to the hype this year.

He carried this Auburn offense for large stretches of the game and should be the focal point of the offense moving forward in the season. Jarquez Hunter has emerged as a viable #2 RB option for the Tigers and I do not see a defense that is equipped to shut down this Auburn football rushing attack.

Hunter has become an absolute star in this offense over the past two weeks and followed it up with an impressive 63 yards rushing while averaging over seven yards per carry. Hunter might have had the highlight of the night as well on a hurdle on Auburn’s final push to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

Wide Receivers: D+

This WR corps showed why many experts were skeptical of their potential entering the 2021 season as Auburn only had one player gain more than 30 yards this weekend in Happy Valley. Kobe Hudson was the only WR on the roster that seemed to create any separation, as he led the Tigers with 66 yards receiving on 4 catches for the night. Hudson’s fumble early in the 3rd quarter proved to be costly for the Tigers as it led to Penn State taking a 21-10 lead, which they never surrendered.

Demetris Robertson (5 catches for 23 yards) and Shedrick Jackson (2 catches for 6 yards) were the only other Auburn WRs with over 2 catches in the game, which is going to be a major issue for the Tigers as they move into their SEC schedule.

The Tigers must have some younger targets emerge and I’m wondering what happened to Ja’Varrius Johnson because coming out of spring he was tabbed to be a top WR, but only mustered one catch for three yards last night. The Auburn wide receivers greatly underperformed and must improve if the Tigers want to be competitive the rest of the 2021 season.