Bo Nix was tired. Really tired.
“I’m exhausted,” he said in his postgame interview Saturday night. “I haven’t run around quite like this in a while. I’m going to sleep good tonight.”
And for good reason. The junior Auburn quarterback played the game of his career in one of the most unusual chapters of his time in college.
LSU fans surely were reminded of old nightmares of mobile quarterbacks putting their Tigers in a game of Twister and leaving them to rot. Vivid apparitions of Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts appeared reincarnated in Nix. He devastated LSU’s tacklers with his speed, athleticism and intelligence, a feeling longtime LSU fans know all too well.
In Auburn’s 24-19 win over LSU, Nix threw for 255 yards and a touchdown, one that will go down as one of the most dazzling touchdowns in SEC history.
Rolling to his right, Nix sensed pressure. As he surveyed the field for his receivers, he also had to dodge LSU defenders in his face. He rolled back to his left, evaded another potential LSU tackler and hit Tyler Fromm in the back of the endzone for a magical touchdown. It robbed LSU of the energy built up by over 90,000 screaming fans, thrilled to be back at a full–capacity SEC football game. Nix’s legs remained a factor, as he rushed for 74 yards total on the evening and punched in a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut LSU’s lead to two.
“I saw Tyler Fromm running in the back,” Nix said of the touchdown. “I’ll never forget the vision I had. I just saw that hair coming out the back of his helmet, just flopping, running wide open. I got lucky and threw it, got the ball of my hands just fast enough, and he ran under it and caught it.”
The ecstasy Nix must have felt in that moment is nearly unimaginable.
After an uninspiring team performance at Penn State and falling behind to Georgia State at home, Nix was replaced by former LSU quarterback TJ Finley. The transfer led Auburn back to get the win and won the hearts (and most likely hindsight bias) of many Auburn fans. Throughout the week, Nix split first-team reps with Finley, keeping Auburn, LSU and college football fanatics on their toes all week. Media across the south licked their lips at the thought of Finley coming home in his first start at Auburn to take on Max Johnson, the quarterback who beat him out in LSU's spring practice, in a night game in Baton Rouge. Finley even got into the game on the third drive of the game after Nix started.
Many can remember Nix’s first game against LSU in 2019 in Tiger Stadium. At that point, he was just a freshman locking horns with the Heisman frontrunner and the future national champions. He struggled, completing just 15 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Despite Auburn’s dominant win at Jordan-Hare Stadium last year, many continued to overlook the fingerprints he could leave on a game against LSU. Everyone was ready for Finley.
To succeed at the level he did with all of the hoopla surrounding him, whether it was criticism of his play or expression of a desire to move on to the next generation, is a remarkable accomplishment that LSU fans should give him credit for. The atmosphere called for a hero, and Nix answered.
“Going into this week, there was a lot of things going on that I don’t necessarily have anything to say about,” Nix said. “It’s just a lot that was just out of my control, but I think I did a good job of focusing on those things that I could control.”
It has to be mind-numbingly frustrating for LSU’s defense to be put under as much pressure as they were and still come out of Tiger Stadium without a sack in hand. Every time it seemed an LSU tackler was sure to bring Nix down, he quickly jumped, juked or accelerated out of harm’s way.
“We couldn’t tackle Bo Nix,” junior LSU linebacker Damone Clark said. “We had him where we wanted him. We stopped him on first and second down, and we were able to have some fun on third down. We just didn’t come through. Way too many missed tackles.”
LSU forced six QB hurries of Nix. They did not bring him down once. The defense as a whole played well, but those instances where they had assured yardage losses until they did not will haunt them for a while.
LSU’s offensive shortcomings should and will be discussed. The offensive line needs desperate improvement, Max Johnson needs to find more consistent play, and the offense needs to develop more cohesiveness. There is no denying that their performance, or lack thereof, is owed some credit for Auburn achieving victory.
That should not be the storyline after the game. It should be Bo Nix, and more importantly his triumph over challenge in spectacular fashion. Grant him the recognition. He was incredible.
Maybe a little tired, but incredible.