Auburn football: Did Robby Ashford show enough to take over as QB1?

On the big stage, against a top-25 team, in front of an orange-clad Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd, the Auburn Tigers showed they are not ready for prime time; not by a long shot. A mistake-prone Auburn team gift-wrapped visiting Penn State a lopsided 41-12 decision to fall to 2-1 for the season.

Is it time to change the quarterback? Is it time for Robby Ashford to take over as Auburn’s starter? Did he do enough Saturday in mop-up duty to convince head coach Bryan Harsin to make the switch?

One thing is sure. Harsin cannot use the two QBs the way he did Saturday, not in the first half anyway.

I’m all for giving Ashford an opportunity, but the times in which he was i

nserted into the Penn State game was puzzling, at least through the first 2 quarters. Starting drives, sure. Bringing some sort of spark to the offense, of course. But that’s not how Harsin chose to use his backup QB. Employing him in the middle of drives is suspect. To put him in when the Tigers are driving and starter T.J. Finley is beginning to get into a rhythm is the head-scratcher.

The times when Harsin deployed Ashford only served to disrupt those drives and to take Finley out of any rhythm he had developed. And it did nothing to put Ashford in a situation to succeed nor gain any confidence.

But it certainly seems like a time for change. Finley’s offense continues to struggle with turnovers. For all the gains Finley may have made Saturday in regard to moving the team and building confidence in his running abilities when it was needed, Finley kept derailing himself, and the team, with bad passing decisions under duress and – to a greater extent – by not protecting the football in those situations. He fumbled 3 times, losing 1.

Three of Finley’s first 7 possessions ended in turnovers. He threw an interception that stopped a 12-play drive, and fumbled another possession away. It’s nearly impossible to beat a top-25 team that way.

The Tigers moved the football, that wasn’t the problem. Finishing drives was. Their first 3 drives took 9, 12 and 12 plays and totaled 147 yards, but produced just 6 points. Instead of taking an early lead and building momentum and confidence, the Tigers trailed, 7-6. It was all downhill after that.

Those initial marches ultimately bogged down and ended in two field goals and a Finley interception. The offense was deflated, lost its confidence and didn’t reach the end zone until Ashford drove them to pay dirt in the 3rd quarter.

That was after Ashford threw an interception in the red zone on his first drive of the 2nd half. And the Ashford-led Tigers gave it up on downs in the red zone on their final possession as well.

So Harsin has a tough decision to make. It appears it’s time to pick a starter and stick with him. Otherwise, the two QBs w

ill continue to struggle for any sort of continuity in their game and the Tigers will suffer for it.

Ashford is clearly the better dual-threat quarterback, and that gives opposing defenses something extra to have to defend. He ended the game on Saturday with a better QB rating (123.1) than Finley (114.6).

But is that enough to make him QB1? Statistically speaking, both were similar. They both threw a pick. Ashford did not fumble. He does a little bit better job of protecting the football.

So, it seems to come down to what Harsin’s vision is for Auburn’s offense. That ultimately will decide which QB is the starter moving forward, because neither has been overly impressive.

And where in the world is Zach Calzada?

View Comments

  • Calzada was shown on the sidelines near the end of the game on TV as if the announcers were hinting something.

  • Neither Finley nor Ashford are the answer when it comes to winning SEC games. If Calzada isn’t physically ready, prep the freshman. Maybe he has a future in this league.

  • Neither he nor Finley are good enough to win with against what AU will be going against. If a kid that had not played in a game in almost 3 years wins the starting job, that is all you need to know about that team.

  • Glenn, you waited until the last sentence to ask the question I had on my mind when I read the title to your article; when is it going to be time for Zach to move up to QB2 and actually get on the field other than during warmups?

  • 2 QB systems are pathetic desperation attempts, it means you don’t have a QB at all. Both are awful choices, who knows what’s going on with Calzada. But if it’s just TJ and Ashford, you definitely live or die with ashford. He’s got potential. You need a QB that can run if auburn can’t stop the pressure

    auburn’s QB situation is a fraction of the problem. God awful coaching, poor fundamentals, an offensive line that looks like it’s made of high schoolers compared to the *backups* at UGA/AL/A&M/etc. Auburn always has a pretty good defense, this year is no difference. It’s obvious the defense is mentally exhausted with their offense’s inability to do anything.

    Harsin needs to be fired today because yellawood and/or Malzahn’s boyfriend aren’t going to give the guy a chance to recruit or build the program. It’s like watching a Lifetime movie. Auburn’s so messed up

    • The other problem is this team has greatly regressed under Harsin. I understand your argument but they looked terrible against Mercer and SJS. ESPN U radio yesterday reported that in coaching circles it is known that Harsin and his staff do not "hit it" like other SEC staffs. AL.com is now reporting that he is a candidate for the AZ State job. Lets home something creative is done because he has to go.

Published by
Glenn Sattell

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