Auburn football: Bo Nix's inconsistencies continue to play spoiler
Tank Bigsby, Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz can be really good. To be fair, so too can Bo Nix. And at times on Saturday against South Carolina, the Auburn defense showed flashes of its 2019 form. There were points in the first half that it felt as though the Tigers should have been up by 30.
But too often, Nix can look really bad.
Occasionally he plays like the second-highest rated QB in the Class of 2019. Far too frequently, however, his inconsistencies shackle coordinator Chad Morris’ offense from ever clicking and damper any lofty expectations fans may have had for this Auburn team.
To be clear, the Tigers don’t have a QB question. But until Nix becomes a more consistent pocket passer, Auburn will never emerge as a threat out of the SEC West.
The Tigers beat South Carolina in nearly every facet of the Saturday’s game in Columbia. Auburn had 128 more passing yards, 56 more rushing yards, 7 more first downs and averaged 1.4 more yards per play (5.8 average vs. 4.4) than the Gamecocks did. But Auburn also led in interceptions, the decisive statistic in South Carolina’s first win over the Tigers since 1933. 3 Bo-Nix interceptions led to 3 Gamecock touchdowns in South Carolina’s 30-22 win over then-No. 15 Auburn.
For as much criticism as there was surrounding Nix leading to this week, the sophomore QB never had much of an interception problem. In 16 games, he had only thrown 7 picks, all away from Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Through a quarter, Nix looked great, sprinkling around 10 completions to 6 different receivers as Auburn charged ahead to a 2-score lead. But then the all-too-familiar, inconsistent Nix reared its head and erased 15 minutes of complete domination.
Stop if you’ve heard this before, but Nix scrambled out of the pocket and threw across his body to a blanketed Williams for the first of Jaycee Horn’s 2 interceptions.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 17, 2020
Nix connected with Williams on a season-long 44-yard pass on the next series, but even that was an ill-advised prayer from Nix that had more hang time than a punt.
The 2nd pick was less on the Auburn QB and more of just an unlucky ricochet. But the pass was a little behind Williams and again it was on 3rd down with Nix out of the pocket, throwing across his body.
Bo Nix throws his 2nd INT of the day. pic.twitter.com/8YByJX8Fg6
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) October 17, 2020
In the first half, Nix threw 9 of his 27 passes outside of the pocket. He completed 3 and had 2 intercepted.
His 3rd and final interception occurred late in the 3rd, another misfire to Williams near the sideline.
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) October 17, 2020
Nix played a little better in the second half, moreso as a rusher than a passer. South Carolina, however, started having success with its own offense on the ground as it pulled away and limited the playbook of a trailing Auburn team.
Bigsby, whose game was rendered insignificant behind Nix’s mistakes, had another great day for the Tigers, carrying the ball for 111 yards on 16 caries, 6.9 yards per attempt.
Wasted efforts like that and the 14 targets, most of which felt like 50-50 jump balls at best, towards Williams for just 4 catches, lead to frustration. Such negative consequences could begin to erode team morale.
Early in the third quarter after Nix threw behind Williams in the end zone, the two were seen going at one another on the sideline after the series ended in a disappointing 3 points.
Good luck w Chad Morris as a mediator pic.twitter.com/TpZ8NVpnHd
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) October 17, 2020
The Tigers’ turnovers and passes not hitting receivers in stride were never more glaring than they were against the Gamecocks, but it has been the same recurring problem all season. And with receiver Eli Stove returning and the offensive line becoming healthier and more experienced, Nix’s mistakes are growing less excusable.
On the final drive of the game, Nix had a shot to play hero with a 50-yard heave to an open Schwartz, but somehow overthrew one of the SEC’s fastest receivers by 5 yards. Even worse, the game’s final play was another Nix scramble out of the pocket for 3 yards when he needed to give his team a shot by throwing to the end zone.
That about sums up Nix. He’s a sensational athlete who can extend plays and frustrate defenses with his legs. Yet as long as his initial instinct is to run and not settle in the pocket, he will never truly take that next leap.
And until the sophomore can take the next leap, Auburn will be stuck right where it is, right in the middle of the SEC pack.