The Auburn Tigers have a new contender to start at quarterback next season after nabbing a transfer from an SEC rival.
Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada confirmed Thursday that he would transfer to Auburn for the 2022 season. Calzada will compete with TJ Finley to earn the starting quarterback role, and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Calzada started for the Aggies for the bulk of last season after starter Haynes King went down with an injury. Calzada threw for 2,185 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He started Texas A&M’s win over Alabama, in which he threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn undoubtedly took note of that performance when working to add him.
The Tigers needed a quarterback solution after Bo Nix entered the transfer portal himself. Calzada likely has the edge to start ahead of Finley, who originally transferred from LSU.
Photo: Sep 4, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada (10) warming up prior to the game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Houston had a questionable playcall and even worse execution late in their game against Auburn on Tuesday, and the Tigers managed to take full advantage.
The Birmingham Bowl initially looked like it might be a shootout when Houston marched down the field and scored on their opening drive, but it turned into a full-blown defensive struggle. Houston had the ball trailing 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter, and they converted a huge 3rd-and-long play from deep in their own territory. They made a huge mistake when trying to dial up some trickery two plays later.
Auburn was ready for the play, and linebacker Chandler Wooten made an outstanding interception.
You have to wonder what Houston was thinking. Tight end Seth Green, who threw the pass, used to be a quarterback, so he should have known there was nothing there. The coaching staff also deserves criticism for the playcall in that situation.
Fortunately, Houston’s defense came up with one of its many defensive stands on the ensuing drive. The Cougars got the ball back, but the mistake cost them a ton of field position at a crucial time.
The Auburn Tigers gave Alabama all they could handle in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, and actually blew a game they had in hand. Bryan Harsin sure didn’t help himself with a big decision in overtime.
Auburn led 10-0 in the fourth quarter. They allowed a field goal following a TJ Finley interception to make it 10-3. Then they allowed Alabama to score a touchdown to tie the game in the final half-minute of regulation.
It felt like Alabama had the momentum entering overtime. Sure enough, the Crimson Tide scored a touchdown to take a 17-10 lead in the first OT. But Auburn wasn’t done and scored a TD to make it 17-16. Harsin then had a decision: kick the extra point to keep the game going, or go for the win with a 2-point conversion. He chose the safe route and not the risky one. Auburn made the extra point to tie the game.
They eventually lost 24-22 in four overtimes.
There were numerous reasons why Harsin should have gone for two at that point. Alabama is the better team. The longer a game goes on, the more likely it is the better team prevails. Harsin could have reduced the game to one play at a time when Auburn had some momentum and fan support. Additionally, Finley was hurt and hobbling around. The longer the game went on, the worse off his health would have been.
All reasons pointed to them going for two, but Harsin didn’t do it. Nobody should be surprised that Alabama prevailed in the end. Apparently Harsin did not learn anything from Lance Leipold.
The conservative move, plus the team’s fourth quarter meltdown, cost them the victory.
Photo: Oct 16, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin during the fourth quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Auburn won 38-23. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn running back Tank Bigsby made a tough mental mistake late in Saturday’s Iron Bowl that wound up costing his team dearly.
The Tigers were clinging to a 10-3 lead over Alabama with 1:54 remaining in regulation, and were trying to run out the clock. Alabama only had two timeouts remaining, so a first down would have essentially ended the game. That looked out of reach after Auburn lost one yard on first down.
On 2nd and 11, however, Bigsby came up with a pretty big play. He managed to find space and picked up ten yards, setting up a 3rd and 1. There was just one problem — Alabama did a fine job ushering Bigsby out of bounds. That stopped the clock and saved Alabama a timeout, as Bigsby was unable to go down in bounds.
That would not have mattered that much had Auburn converted on 3rd and 1, but Bigsby was stuffed for a four-yard loss. Auburn had to punt, which set up a game-tying touchdown drive for Alabama.
Auburn’s punt came with 1:43 left in regulation. Had Bigsby stayed in bounds, the Tigers could have run roughly 40 more seconds off the clock. That led a lot of people to criticize Bigsby for hurting Auburn’s cause despite the yardage.
Bigsby was in a really tough spot. He was only a yard short of the first down and seemed to want to go down, but simply couldn’t. It would have been moot with a better 3rd and 1 play, too. Fairly or not, Bigsby will have fingers pointed at him for opening the door for the Crimson Tide offense.
Photo: Auburn running back Tank Bigsby (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown during Auburn football A-Day spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Jake Crandall via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix will not play in the Iron Bowl on Saturday due to a recent season-ending ankle injury, but he is sure to be a topic of conversation in the Alabama locker room leading up to the big game.
During his weekly appearance on “The Next Round” Monday, Nix shared some of his thoughts on Alabama’s shootout win over Arkansas. He mentioned some of the “controversial calls” from the game. He indicated that it is common knowledge that the Crimson Tide tend to benefit from such calls. Nix was happy to elaborate.
“I think you can watch the game and anybody that’s unbiased would think that something is different,” Nix said. “It is what it is. That’s kind of how it’s always been. That’s part of the game. They have good players. You can’t take that away from them.”
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was asked about Nix’s comments, and he said that talk is an “external factor” that the Tide can’t waste energy on.
There were numerous calls in Alabama’s 42-35 win over Arkansas that benefitted Nick Saban’s team. CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore said during the broadcast that the Razorbacks were on the wrong end of multiple bad calls.
Of course, Alabama fans could point out that Nix didn’t complain when he caught a huge break on one of the most controversial plays of the season last year.
Great teams and great coaches tend to get the benefit of the doubt. That’s hardly a new concept in sports, and it is certainly one that applies to Saban and Alabama.
Auburn players, coaches and fans were upset with a ruling on a punt return late in their 21-17 loss at South Carolina on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks were leading the Tigers 21-17 and had a 4th-and-4 from their 43-yard line with 2:21 left. South Carolina chose to punt.
The Gamecocks’ punt bounced around the 21, went sideways near an Auburn player, and South Carolina picked up the ball. South Carolina’s players immediately began pointing as if they got possession of the ball, while Auburn’s player, Jaylin Simpson, held his hands up as if to say the ball didn’t hit him.
Below are two video angles of the play.
The officials initially gave possession to Auburn, but they reviewed the play. They ended up changing the call and giving South Carolina possession. The officials said the ball touched Simpson.
Since Auburn didn’t have any timeouts left, South Carolina was able to kneel out the clock for the win.
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin addressed the call after the game and shared what he was told.
Given they did not make the call on the field, it’s hard to see what conclusive evidence led the officials to overturn the call. The play was close, but there did not seem to be anything conclusive enough to overturn it.
That’s a tough way for Auburn to lose.
Auburn was up big against Mississippi State on Saturday and ended up blowing the lead to lose 43-34. At one point in the second quarter, the Tigers were leading 28-3 before allowing the Bulldogs to score 40 straight unanswered points.
Naturally, folks made the same joke about Auburn, all referencing the 28-3 lead the Falcons blew in the Super Bowl against the Patriots.
Mississippi State ended up with their biggest comeback in school history and the most memorable win of the Mike Leach era. Both programs are now 6-4. Auburn and their fans are probably stunned over the outcome. Who saw that coming?
Things were shaping up very poorly for the Auburn Tigers on Saturday, and it led to Bo Nix being benched at a key point in the game.
Nix and the Tigers struggled against heavy underdog Georgia State at home so badly that Nix was replaced by T.J. Finley. The Tigers trailed 24-19 at that point.
Nix was awful pretty much all day. He was 13-of-27 for 156 yards when Finley replaced him, and had not thrown a touchdown. Nix was booed several times by Auburn fans as he repeatedly overthrew his receivers.
Nix is in his third season as Auburn’s starting quarterback, but the Tigers had no choice but to make the change. The team was not moving the ball, and Auburn was facing the prospect of losing at home to Georgia State.
Nix has been crushed by rivals before and bounced back, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll even get his job back after this one.
Hugh Freeze was arguably the biggest name linked to the Auburn head coaching job after Gus Malzahn was fired last week, but it turns out he was never actually considered for the position.
One report immediately after Malzahn was fired claimed Auburn’s search would be centered around Freeze. Freeze, who has coached at Liberty the past two seasons, has experience in the SEC after coaching at Ole Miss from 2012-2016. Despite that, John Talty of AL.com was told Freeze was never viewed as a legitimate candidate.
Talty provided a detailed recap of Auburn’s search. He was told by sources that an influential group of boosters pushed Malzahn out and demanded that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele be promoted, but athletic director Allen Greene stuck to his guns and assembled a search committee to interview multiple candidates.
Eventually, Auburn reached an agreement to hire Bryan Harsin away from Boise State. Harsin had only a $250,000 buyout, and Auburn believes he can help address the ongoing problem the Tigers have had with not being able to develop quarterbacks.
Freeze has now been linked to multiple prominent head coaching jobs, and it seems like only a matter of time before he is back with a Power Five school. He left Ole Miss following multiple recruiting violations and an escort scandal, but enough time has likely passed for a major program to take a chance on him.
Auburn is turning to the Boise State pipeline for their next head coach.
The Tigers are hiring Bryan Harsin away from Boise State to replace Gus Malzahn. Yahoo’s Pete Thamel first reported the news.
Harsin, 44, is from Boise and played quarterback at Boise State in the late ’90s. He served on their coaching staff in various offensive roles from 2001-2010 before leaving for Texas for two seasons. He went 7-5 as the head coach at Arkansas State in 2013 before returning to Boise State to replace Chris Petersen in 2014. Harsin has been Boise State’s head coach ever since.
Harsin has gone 69-19 in seven seasons at Boise State. Coincidentally, Harsin replaced Malzahn at Arkansas State when Gus left to take the Auburn job. Now Harsin is replacing Malzahn again.
Though plenty of other names were mentioned in connection with the Auburn job, Louisiana’s Billy Napier and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables were said to be the other serious candidates.
Auburn is rivals with Alabama and plays in the highly competitive SEC West, which makes it arguably the most difficult college football job in the country. Best of luck to Harsin.