Tulane Auburn Football

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix throws a pass during the first quarter against Tulane. [BUTCH DILL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

1. Bo Nix was asked to do too much in the first half of his home debut

The last time Nix played a real game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, it was for Pinson Valley High in the 2018 Class 6A state championship game. He completed 25 of 35 passes for 306 yards in a win over Saraland.

Saturday, in the second start of his college career (and first at home) against Tulane, he was asked to throw the ball 37 times, with 29 of those coming in the first half.

The results weren't bad. He completed 19 of those passes (51.4 percent) for a 207 yards and touchdown, which is better than he did in his debut last week in a win over Oregon in Arlington, Texas.

But head coach Gus Malzahn surely didn't come into Saturday's game planning to put that much on the shoulders of his true freshman quarterback. Ultimately, though, he had to — the Tigers' rushing attack struggled mightily in the first half, mustering only 20 yards on 13 carries.

Auburn was better in that regard after the break, though.

2. Will Hastings, Eli Stove showed how much Auburn missed them last season

Those 37 passes needed to go somewhere, and Anthony Schwartz was still limited and Seth Williams had to leave the game early in the second quarter due to what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

That led to plenty of targets and opportunities for Hastings and Stove, who each missed nearly all of last season after suffering torn ACLs during spring practice. Both got off to a strong start against Oregon and built on it against Tulane, combining to score two of the offense's three touchdowns.

Hastings caught five of 12 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 31-yard completion over the middle early in the second quarter. He also had to leave the game after taking a hit to the head that was ruled targeting.

Stove caught seven passes for 27 yards and carried twice for 4 yards, scoring one touchdown from that distance on a sweep.

Schwartz, who suffered a broken hand in early August, did play for a second straight week, but he still has a wrap on his hand that makes it difficult to catch or carry a ball, which showed when he couldn't come up with a deep ball from Nix during the first quarter.

Williams, who caught the game-winning score to beat the Ducks, made a 40-yard catch to set up Stove's touchdown run in the second quarter but was hurt on the play. Trainers appeared to be examining his left shoulder before taking him straight to the locker room. He did not return.

3. Noah Igbinoghene looked like a shutdown corner

The junior's name didn't come up much during Auburn's win over Oregon last week. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert simply didn't target the Tigers' No. 1 cornerback.

Tulane did, though, and it wasn't fruitful — Igbinoghene was credited with only two tackles and one pass breakup (which he nearly intercepted), but it seemed like he was the defensive back in coverage more often than not when a Justin McMillan pass fell incomplete.

Team Grades

Rushing offense: C – JaTarvious Whitlow had some good carries on a third-quarter drive to set up his touchdown run for a 21-6 lead, and he was the top back with 96 yards on 23 carries. Auburn picked things up late and finished with 172 yards on 45 carries, but the Tigers’ struggles in the first half made things tougher for a while.

Passing offense: C – This was a struggle at the start, though Will Hastings had a big game with five catches for 75 yards. Bo Nix completed just over 50 percent of his passes, a slightly better percentage than last week, in his second college game. Fortunately, no interceptions against Tulane.

Rushing defense: B – Tulane rushed 30 times for 120 yards. Quarterback Justin McMillan averaged 7.7 yards per carry. While the offense settled in, Auburn defended the run well enough to stay in control.

Passing defense: A – Auburn’s defense is no stranger to carrying the load, and this is where Auburn avoided a potentially scary Saturday. The Tigers made McMillan uncomfortable all day, holding him to 10-of-33 passing for 103 yards. Jeremiah Dinson’s interception when Tulane tried to throw the ball away was a bonus.

Special teams: A – No issues here. Anders Carlson made a short field goal and all three extra points.

Coaching: B – Not a brilliant response to the great win against Oregon last week, but Auburn was good enough – especially defensively. A bit of a slow start after such an emotional win last week was no surprise, and the Tigers eventually looked more comfortable. Tulane’s upset bid ended fairly early, so Gus Malzahn didn’t have to make any tough choices.

Overall: B – The Tigers labored through this game more than fans likely hoped and expected, and they were clearly flat offensively early. But Tulane should compete well in the American Athletic Conference, and Auburn was never truly threatened.

Contact Craig at Craig.Thomas@TimesDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TD_CraigThomas

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