A win is a win, and the way things went in the SEC on Saturday, there’s no question Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin will take the Tigers’ 24-13 victory over outmanned San Jose State at Jordan-Hare.

It wasn’t particularly pretty, but when the clock hit triple zeros the Tigers remained unbeaten and the number of those teams left in the conference is dwindling. So, at 2-0 with tune-up victories over Mercer and San Jose State, the Tigers will take their unbeaten record and look forward to hosting Penn State next Saturday.

Here’s a look at a few things that went well on Saturday and a few more that didn’t:

3 things I liked

1. Effort

The Tigers didn’t play their best game, not even close. But from the opening kick, the effort was there for Auburn and that says something about the character of this team. To come ready to play against an inferior opponent from the Mountain West Conference speaks to the way Harsin has his team prepared. Effort will oftentimes make up for physical mistakes, and the Tigers indeed overcame some physical errors with a solid effort for 60 minutes.

2. Running game

The line blocking wasn’t great, but it was good enough to open running lanes for backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter to find. And they did with enough regularity to keep drives alive. Add backup quarterback Robby Ashford to the list. He actually led Auburn’s 210-yard rushing attack with 61 yards on 7 carries.

As a team, the Tigers averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Bigsby added 51 rushing yards and Hunter had another 41 yards on the ground. Damari Alston dashed off with the longest run of the game for Auburn, racing 35 yards.

3. QB improvement

Neither quarterback played particularly well, but there was some improvement late in the game. T.J. Finley looked about as comfortable as he has so far this season in the last few minutes of the game. Hopefully, that’s a sign that he is settling in.

Still slow and lumbering, Finley must continue to improve his decision-making if he’s to become a conversation piece for the better quarterbacks in the league. He threw for 167 yards and actually added 21 on the ground on 5 carries.

But both Finley and Ashford threw interceptions and neither tossed a touchdown pass. While there was some improvement later in the game, there’s still a long, long way to go for both.

3 things I didn’t like

1. Penalties

The Tigers really made things difficult for themselves with costly and untimely penalties. There were 9 in all, and they set the Tigers back 85 yards.

That normally spells defeat, and against better teams on the schedule like Penn State next week and any of the 8 SEC matchups, that many flags will get you beat.

2. Pass defense

At times it seemed nearly non-existent. Auburn’s pass coverage was not good and too many times Spartans receivers ran wide open. San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro completed passes to 8 receivers, who combined for 24 catches and 275 yards. And in 40 pass attempts, the Tigers could not force a turnover.

Fortunately, the Auburn defense limited San Jose State to 54 rushing yards. Otherwise, the outcome could have been very different.

3. Slow start

Though the Tigers were ready mentally, it took a while for them to catch up physically. Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Tigers didn’t take the lead for good until Bigsby’s TD run with 11:45 left in the 3rd quarter.

A faster start would be helpful next week against Penn State and moving forward as Auburn gets into the SEC portion of its schedule.