With quarterback TJ Finley’s first start in the books, Bryan Harsin offered his thoughts on the sophomore’s performance.
Harsin provided more detail Monday on the play of Finley, who was 17-of-32 for 188 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the Tigers’ 21-17 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. Harsin’s overall take was a concise one: there were things he liked from Finley’s play and things everyone involved understand need to get better.
“You look at the good and you look at some of the mistakes and you correct them,” Harsin said. “He’s got to continue to keep working through that, knowing that he’s going to be starting in this game. He played in the last one, [and there were] some good things in there.”
Finley started in place of injured quarterback Bo Nix and had considerable success in the early portion of Saturday’s game.
After Auburn’s opening drive stalled out after six plays, Finley led a six-play, 49-yard drive highlighted by an 18-yard pass from Finley to wide receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson. Finley ended the drive by connecting with Demetris Robertson, who ran to his right and found the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
Finley led another touchdown drive on the next possession, which saw Auburn pick up 61 yards in seven plays. Finley completed two passes on three attempts during the drive, the biggest this time being a 28-yard throw to Shedrick Jackson.
Auburn running back Tank Bigsby finished that drive off with a 7-yard touchdown run that put the Tigers up 14-0 with 2:37 to go in the opening quarter.
Auburn’s offense only managed one field goal after the hot start to the game, though Finley’s final three quarters weren’t all bad.
Finley had four completions that went for at least 10 yards over the final three quarters, including a must-have 19-yard strike to Jackson on fourth-and-16 with less than five minutes to go in the game and a 28-yard completion to Jackson to open what was ultimately Auburn’s final drive.
Finley also wasn’t able to complete many attempts in the final quarter-and-a-half, as he only completed three of his final nine throws.
Although Finley had only taken snaps as a first-teamer for one week, Jackson spoke about how comfortable everyone is with the new starter.
“TJ’s a good playmaker,” said Jackson, who had seven receptions for 111 yards. “I knew that since day one when he came in, just working with him and getting extra work with him at practice and stuff. I believe in him, the whole offense believes in him. The team believes in him.”
The Tigers generated a few big plays through the air even without leading receiver Kobe Hudson, though the team’s 5.9 yards per attempt is tied for its third-lowest mark of the season. The overall mixed bag of results from Finley’s first start at Auburn leaves himself with plenty to focus on before playing Alabama, a team that gave the then-freshman real issues while at LSU in 2020.