AUBURN – The Hugh Freeze era got off to a solid start as the Auburn Tigers (1-0) picked up a 59-14 win over the UMass Minutemen (1-1) in the first game of the head coach's tenure.
It was as dominant of a win as Auburn has enjoyed in recent memory, and Tiger fans stayed until the very end to soak it up. There is a renewed energy and purpose surrounding the Auburn football program.
Robby Ashford still has a role
Despite not being named the starting quarterback, Freeze assured Auburn fans that Ashford would still have a part to play in the Auburn offense. In the first week of the season, Freeze's words were proven to be true.
Ashford made an impact with his legs, picking up three touchdowns and 51 yards off of nine carries.
"Robbie Ashford is vital to us winning football games," Freeze said. "I don't know exactly what that looks like from week to week, but I know he is vital to us winning football games and we need him."
“It felt good," Ashford said on Freeze having confidence in him. "Knowing we're out here making each other better and doing whatever we can to help this team win.”
The front seven still has some question marks
Auburn struggled to rush the pass or stop the run at times. Although both areas got better as the game went along, there appears to be a decent amount of work to do.
The Tigers did force three sacks and seven tackles for a loss of yards, but defensive back Donovan Kaufman provided help in both categories.
The running back room may be even better than expected
Auburn's running back room has been expected to be the strongest unit on the team for a while, and they showed why.
Despite missing Jarquez Hunter, the Tigers ran the ball effectively the whole game. Sean Jackson led the team in yards, picking up 64 and a touchdown off of five carries. Damari Alston picked up 44 yards and a touchdown off of eight carries. Jeremiah Cobb produced an electrifying 42-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
It does not matter what comes this group's way, they will overcome it.
Auburn's secondary has the potential to be special
Auburn's defensive backs have been talked about a lot this offseason. It did not take long for the group to prove that the hype surrounding them was real.
Cornerback Jaylin Simpson returned the game's only interception for a touchdown, but cornerback D.J. James came very close to forcing one as well. Additionally, Kaufman forced the game's only fumble, which was recovered by Simpson.
“I don’t even know if I saw the grass," Simpson said on the excitement of playing in Jordan-Hare. "All I saw was white in the student section. It was really beautiful. I keep replaying it in my head. I got a little somersault in, and I don't even remember doing that because I blacked out.”
The excitement surrounding Auburn football has returned
Jordan-Hare Stadium has earned a reputation of being one of the toughest places to play in college football, and for good reason.
The passionate Auburn fanbase shows up week in and week out, even if things are not going well. This was proven correct last season when Auburn took on Texas A&M in a contest featuring two 3-6 teams and played in front of a sold-out crowd.
Freeze has helped return a lot of the excitement that had been lost over the last two seasons and that was evident in week one.
"Then to see our largest student crowd and largest crowd ever in Jordan-Hare is quite humbling," Freeze said. "I can’t say enough about their support and what that means to our players, to our staff, to our administration and to everyone here at Auburn. It speaks to the love and passion of the Auburn family. Thank you so much for showing up and celebrating our first win here."
Auburn will take on the Cal Golden Bears next week at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. Kick-off is set for 9:30 p.m. CT, and ESPN will have the broadcast.
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