1. Auburn's Nix improves in last tuneup: Auburn’s true freshman quarterback Bo Nix played better. Finally, Nix, who said, “I need to play better,” after the Tulane victory, delivered some improvements. On Auburn’s opening drive against Kent State, two straight runs by Nix against Kent State got the Tigers to the 5-yard line, then Boobee Whitlow punched it in. For a minute, the quarterback runs took fans’ minds off the less than 50 percent completion rate through Nix’s first two games.
While he still hasn’t been great at putting action with words, he improved his passing completion with 12 of 16 for 161 yards and a touchdown. That’s good for Auburn fans, who need Nix to be the prodigy everyone expects him to be. Going into the game, Nix averaged 192 passing yards, and he’d completed only 47.1 percent of his attempts. Sure, he’d thrown three touchdowns, but he’d been picked off twice.
2. Put me in, Coach!: Former Auburn quarterback Woody Barrett, who is now at Kent State, didn’t get the start but did get some playing time. QB Dustin Crum handled Kent State’s offense.
But, by the third quarter, Crum had been sacked five times, and Barrett got the nod. He had a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, along with a 26-yard run to the Auburn 49 for a first down in the third quarter, and another completed pass to Kavious Price in the fourth quarter.
Barrett, who still has friends on Auburn’s team, seems to be a class act. When Auburn clearly wasn’t going the route of a dual-threat QB, he said good bye and thanked the staff. On a YouTube video from Kent State, it appears Barrett hasn’t given up his dream of playing in the NFL. In the video, he expressed interest in playing for one of the Florida teams. “I would love to stay home, sometime; Jacksonville, Tampa Bay or Miami,” Barrett said.
While some criticize athletes transferring schools in an effort to give themselves a better chance to continue playing football after college, others can see how programs, coaches and systems matter, in terms of at quarterback’s success or failure. Good examples: Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, who left Alabama, and Kelly Bryant, who left Clemson for Missouri.
3. One quarterback to another: According to ESPN commentators calling the Auburn-Kent State game, Bo Nix reached out to Cam Newton for advice on his play. Considering Newton’s own sub-par performance in the Carolina Panthers game against the Tampa Bay Bucs earlier this week, Nix might need to offer advice to Newton.
Rushing offense: A — JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow led an efficient rushing game, finding wide open holes against the Golden Flashes. One play into the second half and he had already rushed for 100 years.
Rushing defense: A — Auburn wouldn’t let Kent State get anything going on the ground outside quarterbacks Dustin Crum and Woody Barrett with some meaningless scrambles for yardage.
Passing offense: C — We get it, Bo Nix is a freshman and adjusting to the speed of the game, but Auburn can’t afford sequences like the Tigers had at the end of the first half. First, Nix missed a wide open Jay Jay Wilson in the end zone. Then he fumbled on the next play and was sacked. The bright side: A third-quarter flea-flicker showed some promise.
Passing defense: A — Auburn’s defensive line, especially Marlon Davidson, often hurried Kent State’s passing attack and easily got to the quarterback, mauling him when it needed to.
Special teams: B — Andres Carlson hit a 45-yard field goal at the end of the first half to save a drive nearly fumbled away by Nix. Then he drilled a 37-yarder in the second.
Coaching: B — It was a straightforward night for Gus Malzahn and the Tigers. They handled their business, didn’t scare the heck out of its fanbase like it has in the past keeping it close against lesser opponents.
Overall: A — A solid win with few issues outside Nix’s comfort. It’s the final tuneup for the Tigers before a brutal SEC stretch with Texas A&M on the road next week and Florida in Gainesville two weeks later.
— Josh Vitale
No. 8 Auburn 55, Kent St. 16
KNT—FG Trickett 21, 8:42
AUB—Whitlow 3 run (Carlson kick), 5:47
AUB—Martin 35 run (Carlson kick), :11
KNT—McKoy 53 pass from Crum (Trickett kick), 10:47
AUB—Nix 1 run (Carlson kick), 8:16
AUB—FG Carlson 45, :00
AUB—Whitlow 16 run (Carlson kick), 12:02
AUB—Stove 49 pass from Nix (Carlson kick), 5:59
AUB—FG Carlson 37, 14:55
KNT—K.Price 15 pass from W.Barrett (pass failed), 12:36
AUB—Gatewood 2 run (Ledbetter kick), 8:49
AUB—Gatewood 2 run (Ledbetter kick), 8:49
Time of Possession;26:37;33:23
RUSHING—Kent St., Crum 11-30, W.Barrett 4-27, Bangda 4-14, Shaw 6-9, Elmore 1-5, X.Williams 5-4, K.Price 1-3. Auburn, Whitlow 17-135, Gatewood 12-102, Shivers 12-102, Martin 7-71, Nix 7-21, Joiner 4-19, Ma.Miller 2-13, Sandberg 1-4.
PASSING—Kent St., K.Price 0-1-0-0, Crum 15-24-0-198, W.Barrett 3-11-0-31. Auburn, Gatewood 1-1-0-5, Nix 12-16-0-161.
RECEIVING—Kent St., McKoy 4-85, K.Price 4-41, Dixon 4-30, Dulka 2-34, Shaw 2-33, Carrigan 2-6. Auburn, Stove 6-88, Wilson 3-21, Cannella 1-27, Schwartz 1-13, Hastings 1-11, Joiner 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Kent St., Trickett 39.