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Bryan Harsin and the Auburn faithful can breathe a sigh of relief after narrowly escaping Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 24-16 win over Mountain West opponent San Jose State. Although it was far from pretty, the Tigers did enough on Saturday to prevent them from joining the likes of Notre Dame and Texas A&M, which experienced some of the worst losses in their programs' history.
After a pedestrian first half that included interceptions from T.J. Finley and Robby Ashford and a barrage of penalties, Auburn left the field for the locker room trailing 10-7.
Despite only producing seven yards on five carries in the first two quarters, junior running back Tank Bigsby would become a focal point of the offense in the second half. Bigsby concluded the evening with 51 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. On nights like Saturday, when the offensive play is not up to par, Bigsby can provide the difference in Auburn walking away with a victory. "Getting the ball in Tank's hands, getting the run game going, figuring out a few things that got us in rhythm, and then coming out in scoring — that really helps the momentum, which we really didn't have from the offensive side," Harsin said.
It was great to see Finely push through his early struggles and find a way to help his team get the W. After starting one of five and the interception, he would discover his rhythm and finish the game 13 of 20 for 167 yards. Harsin's confidence in Finley may wain, but for the foreseeable future, it appears Finley is the true QB1.
Even though the defense limited the Spartans to 16 points, it will have to do much better in preventing the big play against Penn State. The secondary allowed seven passes of at least 15 yards. As the schedule begins to toughen, how the defense responds to more athletic and capable skill players is worth watching. However, when it mattered, the Jeff Schmedding-led squad was able to make critical stops when it counted, only allowing one touchdown in five red zone appearances.
The wide receiver room was a point of concern entering the season, and through the first two games, many of those concerns remain. Auburn lacks a true No. #1 receiver, so the offense must spread the ball to get the most out of the passing attack. Because of the attention the running game demands, the receivers will have ample opportunities to attract one-on-one coverage as the season progresses. Time will tell if they can capitalize.
Harsin and his Tigers will welcome Big Ten foe Penn State to the Plains this Saturday. Auburn is looking to avenge its 2021 loss to the Nittany Lions, which enters the game as the No. 22 ranked team in the country with wins over Purdue and Ohio. This is a vital game for the head coach and his team. Stay tuned for coverage, as we will have a mid-week preview for the contest.