Film Room: Why Auburn had its best passing performance in years vs. MSU
The Tigers committed to playing fast and getting playmakers in space early. And their QB1 paired that with an extremely confident game.
(Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
It only took two drives for Payton Thorne to have his best passing performance against a Power 5 opponent in an Auburn uniform.
It only took one more quarter for Thorne to have more passing touchdowns in a single game against an SEC opponent since Bo Nix did it… on Halloween… in 2020.
At the end of Auburn’s 27-13 win over Mississippi State, Thorne had gone 20-26 passing for 230 yards. He set a career-high in completion percentage (76.9%), posted his best yards per attempt in more than a year (8.85) and had his highest QB rating since a win over Maryland two years ago (189.31).
And, of his six incompletions, three were throwaways — Thorne’s first three of the season — and another was a pass that hit one of his receivers in the hands. That means that Thorne finished Saturday with an adjusted completion percentage of 91.3%, which is the best mark for any Auburn quarterback since Jarrett Stidham in the 2017 Iron Bowl.
Yes, Mississippi State has struggled with its pass defense this season. Heading into Saturday, the Bulldogs had allowed all but two opponents to complete at least 70% of their pass attempts. LSU, South Carolina and Alabama all put up monster passing efficiency numbers on Mississippi State.
But Auburn had faced bad pass defenses this season — like LSU’s — and put up hardly anything through the air. For the first time since Nix last played for the Tigers in 2021, Auburn had a truly efficient and explosive day through the air against a conference opponent, setting the tone for a streak-snapping win.
Everywhere you looked, things felt different for Auburn’s passing attack. A wide receiver unit that had struggled all season, particularly on the outside, was responsible for double-digit receptions. Eleven different targets caught passes from Thorne, and a penalty wiped out a potential 12th in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ offense looked much more like what Auburn fans had envisioned when Hugh Freeze became the head coach and Philip Montgomery became the offensive coordinator. Finally, eight games into the season, Auburn showed signs of building into the modern passing attack it needs in order to truly compete longterm in the SEC.
For this edition of the Film Room, I charted all 26 of Thorne’s pass attempts against Mississippi State and found two big reasons why it all clicked for Auburn’s air attack.
It’s just one game, but Auburn has at least a couple more favorable matchups coming up where it can aggressively attack with its passing game. Mississippi State was a must-win game that could serve as a turning point for the season and the program. That might be doubly true for a passing game that has been missing on the Plains.
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