Guerry Clegg

While Auburn’s Bo Nix is learning on the job, teammates step up to put ‘smile on his face’

Undoubtedly, this wasn’t exactly how Bo Nix envisioned his first home game as Auburn’s starting quarterback. Especially against a relative lightweight such as Tulane.

Oh, the Tigers won, 24-6 over the Green Wave. But to hear Nix tell it, the final score was about all he was happy with Saturday night.

“We won the game, so that’s all that matters,” Nix said. “Obviously, I’ve gotta play better.”

Well, yeah. No denying that. The Tigers produced 379 yards in total offense, much of that coming on big plays. The Tigers had 12 possessions that were not cut short by the clock. Four of those were three-and-out. Two others ended on fumbles.

But Nix was hardly alone. The offensive line needs to block better. The running backs need to be more explosive. Jatarvious Whitlow fumbled three times, losing two of them. Eli Stove dropped a pass on the first possession that would have been a first down. Receivers appeared to have made some wrong reads on routes, resulting in passes that were nowhere near them.

“We’ve got to click a little better,” Nix said. “We’ve got to become more comfortable with each other. A lot of that is just through practice and more repetitions of things. … Most of the times with the passes, that’s on me. I’ve got to get better with my receivers and I got to hit them when they’re open.”

And, yes, Nix will need to play better than he did if the Tigers are navigate a schedule that includes Alabama and Georgia at home, and Florida, LSU and Texas A&M on the road.

This was inevitable, really. Not that Nix’s heroic moment in the season opener against Oregon the week before was a fluke. But that game-winning touchdown pass to Seth Williams didn’t change one very important fact: Nix is learning on the job.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix (10) celebrates with teammates after Auburn came from behind to defeat Oregon following an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. Auburn won 27-21. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) Ron Jenkins AP

That’s why, in addition to quickly becoming Nix’s go-to target in clutch situations, receiver Will Hastings has taken on another role. He is trying to keep Nix loose with a sarcastic comment here or a nod of encouragement there. Hastings mentioned some of the positive things Nix did against Tulane: “I think some of the positive things were he had good pocket awareness. He was able to see things. He was able to understand things. He made a couple of right calls when we checked, couple good passes.”

Then, Hastings offered some perspective.

“That kid’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders being 18,” Hastings said. “I think people say, ‘Oh, he’s Patrick Nix’s son. He’s so and so.’ The kid’s 18 years old. I mean, he’s still learning, he’s still growing. The fact that he’s able to take on all this pressure as an 18-year-old true freshman is just phenomenal to me and it speaks well to me and it speaks well to this team. It’s just awesome seeing him grow up. He’ll learn and we’ll get better each week.”

So Hastings tries to lighten the moment, not that he’s always successful.

“I tried to get a smile on his face and when Jarret (Stidham) was here I could get a smile on his face. The thing about Bo, he just can’t let it get to him. We’ll all work on it for him. He gets really hard on himself. He’ll get better.”

Hastings said Nix is too hard on himself, an assessment Nix didn’t deny.

“In order to be perfect and be the best, I think everyone has to be hard on themselves,” Nix said. “Because if I accept the way I played out there, I couldn’t live with myself and I’d just be miserable all the time. I’m just doing what I can to get better each week and just be more consistent.”

Nix admitted that he was frustrated at times. But that doesn’t mean he has lost confidence, either in himself or in his offensive teammates.

“We’ve just got to clean up a few things,” he said, “and we’re really close to being a good team.”