It was an impressive 45-13 Homecoming victory for the Auburn Tigers over the defending Southern Conference champions Samford Bulldogs. Despite a slow start, the Tigers were able to ultimately flex their muscles and extend their record to 3-0.

Once again, the Auburn defense was outstanding. This time, after struggling to score a week earlier at California, the offense followed suit, tallying points in 7 of its final 10 possessions.

Player of the Week: QB Payton Thorne

Thorne did it all. Not only did he complete 75 percent of his passes (24-for-32) for 282 yards and 1 TD, but he also used his legs to keep the Samford defense off balance.

In addition to his impressive passing stats, Thorne also led the Tigers in rushing. Auburn’s signal-caller added 123 yards on 11 carries and scored on runs of 5 and 18 yards. It was an impressive all-around performance from the Tigers’ emerging leader.

Freshman of the Week: K Alex McPherson

The Auburn kicker was perfect, connecting on all 5 PAT attempts in addition to a successful field goal of 22 yards. He accounted for 8 points and raised his total to 21 for the season.

In the 3 games of 2023, McPherson remains perfect. He is 15-for-15 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals.

Biggest surprise: Where was Red Zone Robby?

It had been a working system that when the Tigers reached the red zone, they swapped out QBs with Robby Ashford, Auburn’s running QB, taking over for Thorne.

But on Saturday, Thorne remained on the field. Ashford didn’t see playing time until a mopup role later in the game. Thorne played the roles of both runner and passer, fulfilling both.

Biggest concern: Thorne’s red-zone decisions

The Auburn QB threw an interception, and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs in the red zone on their first 2 possessions of the game. As we get into SEC play, that can be disastrous. It could also be why head coach Hugh Freeze had employed Ashford in the red zone in previous games.

In any case, putting up points once you reach the red zone will be key in Auburn’s success moving forward.

Developing trend: Bend-but-don’t-break defense

The Tigers are among the top teams in the SEC in scoring defense. Through 3 games, they are giving up an average of just 12.3 points per game. Only Georgia has allowed fewer (8.0).

On Saturday, Auburn gave up 13 points. Previously, the Tigers were scored on by UMass (14 points) and California (10 points).

Key stat: 562 total yards

The Tigers moved the ball at will. The offense was rolling all night. Auburn had 7 drives of 50-plus yards. Whether throwing it or running it, the Tigers were successful. They threw for 340 yards while rushing for another 222, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

First impression about Week 4: Next week they play for keeps

The Tigers open SEC play next Saturday when they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers are 3-0, but they won’t have played a team as athletic as the 2-1 Aggies.

The Tigers have an opportunity to send a message to the rest of the SEC that they can not be overlooked. A victory on the road in the SEC would be huge.