AUBURN, Ala. - It was a week of concern after a rough offensive performance at Cal. The Tiger offense hopefully eased some of those doubts, cruising to a 45-13 win over the Samford Bulldogs and racking up 562 total yards in the process.
After two weeks of a two quarterback system, head coach Hugh Freeze rolled with his starter Payton Thorne for the entirety of the first half.
Thorne was letting the ball fly all night, throwing the ball 25 times in the first half alone, connecting with 7 different Auburn receivers.
“We wanted to try to get some confidence,”Freeze said. “We’re going to have to throw the football.”
After throwing two quick interceptions, Thorne was able to flush the bad plays and finish with 282 yards in the air. He seemed as though he had found his footing in the Auburn offense.
Thorne had multiple long throws, including one for a 32 yard touchdown to wide receiver Shane Hooks. Other notable throws from Thorne included a 41 yard strike to tight end Rivaldo Fairweather, and a 36 yard connection with receiver Jay Fair.
While it certainly was an impressive performance by Thorne through the air, perhaps the most impressive (and possibly surprising) aspect of his night was what he was able to accomplish running the football. Thorne finished the game as Auburn’s leading rusher, going for 123 yards and two scores on the ground.
Thorne was able to bust open some long runs, including a 38 yard rush that set up a Jarquez Hunter touchdown. “I guess I’m not that slow,” said Thorne jokingly. “It was good to get back out there and run again.”
Fairweather echoed Thorne’s comments, saying, “He’s got sneaky speed. He looked fast. He looked good.”
Fairweather also emerged as a favorable target after picking up right where he left off from last week's heroic performance at Cal. The tight end brought in 5 catches on 5 targets with a long of 41 yards.
As SEC play begins, Fairweather is sure to become a common mismatch. “He’s a tough matchup,” said Freeze. “We have to find ways to get him the football and get him in advantageous matchups.”
Fairweather spoke on getting more targets, saying, “I’m really happy that I gained the trust from the coaches, and especially the head coach to put the ball in my hands.” With recent performances, it will be hard to not put the ball in the hands of the big tight end.
Auburn can now officially look ahead to conference play, where the team will need to fix a few things to prepare for one of the toughest leagues in football. “Obviously the intensity is going to have to be raised a little bit,” said Thorne.
Auburn definitely has a gauntlet ahead of them. “It’s hard in this profession to celebrate too long,” said Freeze. After wrapping up non-conference play, Auburn's first test is at the always rowdy Kyle Field.
Auburn will face Texas A&M in only the 22nd matchup between the Aggies and the Tigers. Kickoff is at 11:00 AM CT and will be televised on ESPN, as the Tigers will look to start SEC play 1-0.