Auburn football: Grading Bo Nix's first act with Chad Morris
Opening week of the SEC football season has come and gone. With it being an all-conference schedule in 2020, half the teams are now 1-0 with the other half sitting 0-1. Fortunately for Auburn, it is one of those seven undefeated teams after a 29-13 victory on Saturday against Kentucky at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Auburn offense started slowly against the Wildcats, but things quickly started to pick up for Bo Nix and company in the second half. After scoring 8 points through 2 quarters, the Tigers put 21 up on the scoreboard to finish things off.
Speaking of Nix, he finally got a chance to show off any and all growth with new offensive coordinator Chad Morris bringing a new offense to The Plains. So, how did that go? Well, let’s take a look.
How did Bo Nix look in the first half?
The ongoing joke by early in the second half was that Nix was a better punter than quarterback. To be fair, he did have 2 amazing punts of 38 and 39 yards where he pinned Kentucky at the 7- and 2-yard lines, respectively. So while some may have meant it is an insult, the joke might actually be on them.
But getting back to how Nix, the quarterback, performed in the first half. Well, the numbers weren’t great. He was 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) for 90 yards with 0 touchdowns. The 8.2 yards per attempt average was actually solid, but the rest of those numbers left a lot to be desired.
What we saw in the first half from Nix was a strong connection with junior wide receiver Seth Williams, who had a couple of impressive grabs of 26 and 14 yards. We also saw more route combinations and other new offensive elements from Morris. Those new elements ultimately proved to be much more effective over the course of 4 quarters.
How did Nix look in the second half?
The second half was when we started to see the new Nix — and new Tigers offense — come alive. Despite not having a consistent run game, the offense had a ton of success the last 2 quarters. And Nix was a huge reason for that.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound sophomore improved in every area. He completed 62.5 percent of his 16 pass attempts for 143 yards and 3 scores. His yards per attempt average also went up from 8.2 to 8.9. He looked more comfortable; more confident. And the Auburn offense was more dynamic as a result.
That isn’t to say Nix was perfect. But his newfound confidence was constantly put on display and he continued to target Williams often. In fact, Williams was responsible for 6 of Nix’s 16 completions and 2 of the 3 touchdown passes. He posted those numbers along with 112 yards receiving on the day.
It wasn’t just Williams and his elite 50-50 ball skills being used, however. Eli Stove (4 catches, 55 yards, 1 touchdown) and Anthony Schwartz (3 catches, 40 yards) were also a part of the equation on Saturday.
Final verdict for Bo Nix
In his first start as a sophomore, Nix completed 16 of 27 passes (59.3 percent) for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns; he also led Auburn in rushing yards with 34 on 5 carries. It was on the second time in his career that he has thrown for 3 scores in a game. The other was against Arkansas in 2019.
The most notable difference about Nix under Morris compared to Nix last season was his willingness to take more chances and trust his receivers — especially Williams, who was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school for a reason. Nix has plenty of talent, including arm strength, mobility and more. He just has to trust himself.
Auburn’s running game didn’t provide much relief for Nix either, with just 91 yards. It was a surprising development considering how many believed a deep stable of running options would take pressure off of Nix.
But Nix still responded and the Tigers earned a big opening-week win against a top-25 foe as a result. That’s enough to push his grade to:
Final grade: B+