The Auburn Tigers began their 2022 campaign Saturday night with a 42-16 victory over FCS opponent Mercer. Even though Auburn did win, they are currently engaged in a major controversy.
The Big Controversy
I won’t shave off any time. TJ Finley looked rough and made two particular throws that were out of place, both of which resulted in turnovers. I can’t say whether TJ Finley lost his starting role or not, but I am certain that this week’s practice against San Jose State will be very important for the Auburn offense. After TJ Finley’s poor performance and Robby Ashford’s impressive performance, I think the quarterback competition is once again wide open. This week, Robby Ashford will likely work with the starting lineup.
On the ground, Robby Ashford looked fantastic. There was no doubt that the dual-threat quarterback was in charge. Even though Ashford needs to improve his decision-making, I think the Tigers currently have no better QB option than him. Finley did perform well on occasion, but he collapsed after a strong start. His chances of being the starting quarterback were destroyed by the two horrible throws.
The Offensive Performance
I won’t be discouraged by Tank Bigsby’s performance as a running back just because Auburn faced a weaker opponent. Bigsby had a stunning performance. He appears to be more powerful, elusive, and quick. On 41 team carries, Auburn gained 285 rushing yards in total. Tank Bigsby led the Tigers in rushing with 147 yards on 16 attempts and two touchdowns. On just 8 carries, Jarquez Hunter scored three touchdowns, while Robby Ashford gained 68 yards on 6 attempts.
Due to TJ Finley’s subpar play, Auburn only threw the ball 21 times overall and committed two turnovers. Finley had a 5/6 initial performance with 65 yards and a touchdown before going 4/8 with 47 yards and two interceptions. Ashford had a strong day and completed 4/7 passes for 100 yards in the air. Robby Ashford appeared more comfortable and informed than TJ Finley despite not having played a single game the previous season. What did we discover about the offense? Well, we already know that Ja’Varrius Johnson is the offense’s primary deep threat, that Auburn is a run-first team, and that TJ Finley doesn’t seem to be ready.
The Defensive Performance
As expected, the defense looked excellent. If TJ Finley’s interception hadn’t happened. The first-team defense wouldn’t have allowed even one point to be scored. In his debut, Cam Riley had an outstanding performance. He seems to be prepared to take over for the previous starter Zakoby McClain and fits the mold. Riley had a game-high 15 tackles after the game was over. The number of times active and effort plays were made Saturday night was among the defense’s most stunning performances.
Nehemiah Pritchett in the secondary had one of the better defensive games. Cam Riley was in charge of the linebacker core. In the defensive line, Eku Leota, Derick Hall, and Colby Wooden all stood out. Cayden Bridges’ participation in the secondary for the defense was one of the more unexpected things. The defense, in my opinion, looked impressive, but the defensive line stands out among all the position groups as the best.
The Overall Breakdown
Overall, Auburn wins on opening day, which is all that matters in the end. The rest of the season will be decided by how well the running game performs. We are back at square one with the quarterback problem. After his first action as an Auburn Tiger, Ashford was extremely grateful and emotional. He now appears to be one step ahead of Finley. All night long, the Auburn defense played with a lot of enthusiasm, drive, and effort. It’s a great start for new defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding. Even though there are still many unanswered questions, Auburn fans are satisfied that their team won and showed some signs of life in the wake of the events of the previous offseason.
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