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Bama finds quarterback, Auburn seeks answer

HUNTSVILLE — Four weeks into the college football season, it looks as if Alabama settled on a starting quarterback. In Auburn, however, things aren’t so clear.

The Crimson Tide was solid for the most part during a 24-10 win over Mississippi at home, while the Tigers’ offensive woes continued during a 27-10 loss on the road at Texas A&M as both of the state’s Power 5 teams opened Southeastern Conference play.

Jalen Milroe displayed some of the flaws that saw him benched a week earlier in favor of backups Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson, like staring down a receiver and making the wrong
read near the goalline for a second-quarter interception. But, he did more than enough to secure his position for the near future.

“We believe in our team and it was important for them to believe in each other, but there’s a responsibility that goes with that belief in terms of being accountable to do your job and to play with discipline and try to play with the kind of toughness and physicality that we want to play with and eliminate the ‘my bads,’ ” Tide Head Coach Nick Saban said. “I thought we did that in the second half.”

Alabama (3-1 overall, 1-0 SEC) travels to Starkville for another SEC clash this week at
Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2). Gametime is 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Earlier Saturday, Auburn followers had to be wondering, “How bad are Big 10 defenses?’’

Tigers’ starter Payton Thorne, a graduate transfer from Michigan State where he passed for
nearly 6,000 yards with a .615 completion percentage the last two seasons, was again
ineffective. Thorne, unlike his performance against overmatched Samford a week prior, wasn’t sharp. Backups Robbie Ashford, a running specialist, and seldom-used Holden Geriner got snaps as Auburn continued to look for the right spark at quarterback.

The ugly aftermath: Thorne (6-of-12 passing, 44 yards), Geriner (2-of-7, 8), Ashford (1-of-4, 4).

Tigers’ quarterbacks were sacked seven times with some coming with receivers open. At the same time, the running game was effective at times but not good enough to overcome the lack of passing.

“I didn’t want to play a lot (of quarterbacks),” Auburn Head Coach Hugh Freeze said. “I don’t want to sit here and make a lot of assumptions without watching the film. (But) we had people open and we either either missed them or the pressure distracted us.”

Auburn’s defense was again stout until shouldering the load finally became too much in the final quarter as first-year head coach Hugh Freeze took his first loss at the school. Auburn got a 67-yard fumble recovery return by rising star linebacker Eugene Asante in the fourth quarter for the team’s only touchdown that made it 20-10 with 12:16 left to play.

“I thought our kids played well enough on defense outside of the explosive plays to give us a chance to win the game,” Freeze said, “but offensively we’re searching and we’ve got to find some answers.”

Auburn (3-1, 0-1) will host top-ranked Georgia (4-0, 1-0) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium (CBS).

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