With three straight SEC wins under their belt and high momentum heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the Auburn football program is having a solid first year under head coach Hugh Freeze, even if it didn’t start out that way.
The Tigers have had a streaky season, beginning with the three non-conference wins in September before nose diving into four straight losses in SEC play. While the defense was often the saving grace for the team, the offense seemed to take two steps forward and then one giant step backwards every time they hit the field.
After the loss to Ole Miss, things changed. Hugh Freeze put his foot down ahead of the Mississippi State game and the endless quarterback rotation between Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford was halted. Instead, he gave the keys to Thorne, and with the time to stay in the game and build up a rhythm, Thorne has found consistent success as QB1.
According to Freeze, the improvement of the offense is the direct result of finding their identity, per Saturday Down South:
"“We’ve just really changed to having that identity, I don’t think we ever had a true identity,” Freeze said. “I think we were searching all the way through the Ole Miss game truthfully, until after that when — and I have nobody to blame but myself. Sometimes when I talk about this, people think I’m blaming the offensive staff or me not being totally in charge of it totally at that point, or whatever. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility, so I was on board with what everybody thought was our best chance to win those games. But ultimately it just became so uncomfortable for me that I just said this is what’s worked for me for all my years in college and I just can’t go any longer — and no one fought back on that. Everybody was kind of probably relieved. And so we have an identity now.”"
Freeze recently noted that play calling has been a “collaboration” between himself, offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery, and offensive line coach Jake Thornton. Even so, with his reputation as a stellar play caller, there is no doubt that Freeze’s increased involvement has improved the offense.
Fans can catch Thorne and the Auburn football team back in action this weekend when they take o the New Mexico State Aggies from Jordan-Hare Stadium.