No. 23 Auburn seeks big plays vs. Georgia St.

NCAA Football

The No. 23 Auburn Tigers look to rebound from their loss to No. 6 Penn State when they entertain the Georgia State Panthers Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

Auburn (2-1) faces its final nonconference foe before opening its SEC schedule Oct. 2 at LSU.

The Tigers drove deep into Penn State territory twice late in the fourth quarter but came away empty each time in a 28-20 loss.

Tank Bigsby rushed 23 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and Bo Nix completed 21 of 37 passes for 185 yards. Nix’s longest completion was 36 yards.

“Obviously, the big plays — the explosive plays — were not there,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “That’s a big part of what we have to create. … I think there’s opportunities for that. I think there were, from a scheme standpoint, chances to do that. We’ve got to be able to hit ’em, we’ve got to be able to catch ’em.”

Meanwhile, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford completed 28 of 32 passes and, over three games, Tiger opponents are completing 79 percent of their throws. Auburn didn’t register a sack against Penn State.

“As far as the pass rush goes, yeah, we’ve got to put some pressure on the QB,” Harsin said. “We can’t let him stand back there and sit in the pocket for 8-9 seconds. We’ve got to be able to move him and get him off his platform of where he wants to be.”

Georgia State (1-2) lost to Army and then-No. 24 North Carolina before getting their first win, 20-9 over Charlotte, last Saturday.

Two of quarterback Darren Grainger’s six completions went for touchdowns, and three running backs and Grainger combined for 282 yards. They were led by Destin Coates, who gained 83 yards on four carries, including a 64-yard run.

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, who guided the Panthers to a win at Tennessee in 2019, knows yards will be harder to come by Saturday.

“They are big, physical, talented,” Elliott said of the Tigers. “They’ve got the pick of the litter because they are Auburn. They are athletic. That is who they are and what they are about. If you look at their interior defensive line, they’ve got some mammoth men in there.”

Elliott said Grainger, a transfer from Furman who replaced Cornelious Brown late in the loss to North Carolina, is in line to make his second straight start.

Jamari Thrash leads Panther receivers with 11 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown.

“These guys have done a great job as far as just what they have to do on the offensive side, and they’ll give you some different looks and ways they can attack you,” Harsin said of the Panthers.

In what Elliott called a “phenomenal defensive effort,” Georgia State held Charlotte to 276 total yards.

Now the Panthers take a step up in class, but Elliott doesn’t expect them to be intimidated as they travel to Auburn for the first time.

“Just because they got a big ol’ stadium and they like to cheer and there is going to be a little eagle flyover, I don’t think we are going to be shell-shocked,” Elliott said. “It is a football contest. So we will play it just like every other football contest.”

–Field Level Media

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