Quarterback Bo Nix struggled but continued to fight in Iron Bowl’s first loss
Down 21 against Georgia, 8 against South Carolina or 29 against Alabama, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has never shown a desire to give up.
“There is no quitting in our quarterback,” said coach Gus Malzahn.
Against the Gamecocks, Nix nearly led the Tigers on an even stroke, but they stalled on South Carolina 12. Against the Bulldogs, he continued to look for big plays despite a large deficit. And against the Crimson Tide, he managed to slip into the end zone in the last quarter. But among all these losses and failed attempts to return, Alabama’s is different. This is Nix’s first loss in the Iron Bowl.
“I think it’s pretty terrible and it’s not a lot of fun,” Nix said. “It hurts because of everything I’ve put in there, everything I’ve done to get to this moment. To sum up, it’s a terrible feeling to be honest with you. I’ve never really been in this situation before.
Nix grew up watching the Iron Bowl, grew up with the dream of leading the Tigers to victory in one of the biggest rivalry games in the country. He even played and won at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the home of Alabama, as a quarterback for Pinson Valley High School.
And then, last year, his dreams came true. Nix led Auburn to a suspenseful three-point victory. He secured Auburn’s second victory over Alabama in three years with the victory at home.
2020 was going to be his first attempt to change Auburn’s luck in Alabama territory. The Tigers hadn’t won at Tuscaloosa since 2010, when Nix was in elementary school. He knew, firsthand, how terrible it was to go to school the next day and face the Alabama fans after losing at the Auburn Iron Bowl.
“There are a lot of kids going to school on Monday who are going to have to put up with a lot of bullshit no matter how it goes,” Nix said ahead of the game.
So Nix, bolstered by last season’s victory, was ready to play the toughest he has ever played in his life. Unfortunately, the whole team failed to achieve this goal. Pass offense, run offense, pass defense, run defense and special teams all struggled in the 42-13 loss.
“We haven’t been able to make really impact plays in all three phases to give us a bit of momentum, to put a bit of pressure on them,” Malzahn said on Sunday.
While Nix takes much of the blame for the offensive difficulties – like the forced pass that turned into an interception – Malzahn said the poor offensive performance, as well as Nix’s struggles, was the result of a combination of factors.
One of the most important was the offensive line. Before the game he had lost two starters and he lost a third at half-time. The line struggled to give Nix enough time to make plays, and she struggled to open up lanes for the rushers.
The first part hurt because Nix tends to slip out of the pocket too early, and he returned to that habit on Saturday, but the second was deadly because Auburn’s offense doesn’t work without the run. . This has been clearly displayed throughout the season. Auburn struggled in the early games where there was little production on the field. Then, as soon as the running game clicked, the attack found a rhythm.
Auburn ran for 120 yards on Saturday, the lowest amount in the last five games. Nix rushed for a loss of a meter. Typically he’s a flight threat, which helps the running backs, but he was stopped by the Alabama defense.
With play stalled, the Alabama defense was able to focus more on the receiver defense and the passer. Auburn still finished with 227 yards, but struggled to make big catches once he was within goal distance. Nix also threw two interceptions, one of which ended an Auburn drive in Alabama Territory. He finished the game 23-38 with a score of 100.2. It was his fourth lowest completion percentage (60.5%) of the season and his second yardage per pass average (9.87 yards per pass).
It was a terrible time for the Tigers to be out of the game as they faced some of the best players in the country. Alabama are the No.1 team with several All-SEC preseason players on their defense. As Auburn’s game faltered, the Alabama players demonstrated why they are considered the best in the country.
It was a lot to deal with, but looking back Malzahn was able to find a bright spot in the way the team refused to give up and how Nix continued to lead the offense.
“I’m really proud of the way they kept fighting and kept fighting until the end in a very difficult situation,” said Malzahn. “Of course our quarterback did a good job as well.”
As a result, Auburn was able to enter the end zone late in the game carried by a series of rushes from running back Mark-Anthony Richards and Nix. It ended with Nix’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“Like I said, he kept fighting until the end, but you have to give them credit for that,” said Malzahn. “They played very well defensively, I felt like I did a good job.”
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