AUBURN — After the drubbing by Penn State last Saturday, most of Auburn turned its attention to Missouri (2-1) as a possible bounce-back game for an offense that has struggled to find its identity against a defense that seems outmatched. 

The Tigers of Missouri are 2-1, with a solid 52-24 win over a struggling Louisiana Tech (1-2) team and a too-close-for-comfort 34-17 victory over Abilene Christian. Missouri’s only loss came on the road against Kansas State, and the Wildcats dominated that contest with 235 yards on the ground and forcing four Missouri turnovers. 

That poor run defense appears to be an opportunity for the Auburn offense to finally have success on the ground after struggling in back-to-back weeks. With the issues that Auburn has had at quarterback, running the football, and more specifically getting the ball into Tank Bigsby’s hands, could take some pressure off of the complicated quarterback situation.

“We want to run the football. But you know, every game is different,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said on Monday. “You guys don't sit in the meetings and all that and look at the game plan and what they're trying to do, too.”

With a struggling run defense like Missouri’s, which was gashed by Kansas State, Harsin and the offense could have an opportunity to finally get the run game back into rhythm.

Auburn may need it more than normal, because multiple reports, with the news first coming from Tom Green of, have indicated that quarterback T.J. Finley will be unavailable for the Missouri game after sustaining an injury in the second half of the Penn State game. 

Other reports have also indicated that Zach Calzada, the transfer quarterback from Texas A&M, is out for the season after scheduling a second shoulder surgery, ending his first year at Auburn before it even began. 

Despite these reports, Harsin has stuck by his statements from Monday’s press conference, where he indicated that all quarterbacks were competing during practice.

“When we play, we’ll have a quarterback on the field,” Harsin said during Thursday night’s Tiger Talk.

So with Finley and Calzada presumably out of action, Auburn is left with two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Oregon transfer Robby Ashford and freshman Holden Geriner. 

Ashford has been the backup for T.J. Finley through the first three games of the year, and while he has struggled throwing the ball, with just 15 completions on 29 attempts and one touchdown along with two interceptions, he has been electric on the ground.

In limited action, Ashford has 158 yards and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, the best among his teammates with 10 or more carries. As the offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback, Ashford’s scrambling ability could be the key to unlocking more of the passing game, and that will be put to the test against Missouri’s solid pass rush.

Geriner was initially going to redshirt his freshman season on the Plains, but Bryan Harsin's first quarterback recruit at Auburn might be called upon during Saturday’s SEC opener. Harsin, along with some of his players, has been very complimentary of Holden. 

“That man can zip it,” defensive lineman Marcus Harris said on Wednesday when asked about Geriner. “He throws one of the best balls I’ve seen.”

Geriner was the 18th-best quarterback in the 2022 class after a successful career at Benedictine Military School. 

He led the team to a state championship during his senior season, finishing the year with 3,377 yards and 36 touchdowns to go against just three interceptions.

Harsin has been adamant that the team is not set, and that could be put to the test on Saturday with Auburn having possibly just two quarterbacks on the roster.

Auburn and Missouri will do battle inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m. CST. 

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.