Robby Ashford said he’s excited heading into his first Iron Bowl week, and deservedly so.
The Auburn quarterback grew up an Auburn fan in a family littered with Alabama faithful, most notably with a brother-in-law in former Alabama great Damion Square.
“It’s been good just to see just how much this game brings our family along too, just together, like it does for a whole lot of families,” Ashford said Monday. “This game means everything.”
While the Tigers head into their matchup with No. 8 Alabama on Saturday an underdog by more than three touchdowns, Ashford will guide the Auburn offense in the hopes of what would be the program’s most miraculous upset since Cam Newton led the Tigers to an impressive comeback win in Tuscaloosa in 2010.
For Ashford, it’s been a winding year. Initially named Auburn’s backup quarterback, he was thrust into the starting role as the Tigers’ loss to Penn State in Week 3 and has remained in the role since. Since Carnell “Cadillac” Williams took over as interim head coach, he’s seen his usage in the offense shift, too, but as he put it, he’s just trying to do “whatever I can to help the team win.”
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“Right now, we’ve been running the ball really good, so it’s kind of, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Ashford said. “And I mean, as a quarterback, I feel like a lot of people would be like, ‘Oh, how do you feel? Like why would you be happy or something? Because your stats aren’t as great.’ But for me, I don’t care about stats as long as it is a W in the win column. I don’t care who scores.”
This season, Ashford has thrown for 1,536 yards while completing 49.3% percent of his passes, and throwing six touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Under Harsin, he was throwing far more, averaging 21.6 pass attempts per game, but that number has gone down in recent weeks, going to 18 per game under Williams. He’s running the ball more, too, averaging 14.3 rush attempts per game as opposed to 11.6 in the first eight weeks. His yards per carry have increased, too, up to 4.5 from 4.3
Even if the numbers haven’t been stellar, Auburn’s coaching staff has expressed a lot of faith in Ashford.
“He’s doing a lot better job of running the show, getting us in the right checks,” Williams said. … He’s still a young kid. He’s still learning. He’s a fighter. He’s a competitor. A lot of times, he’s just got to channel a lot of that energy, but man, I would fight with Robby any day of the week.
“In order for us to truly win this game, we’re going to have to run the ball. But we’re also going to have to take our opportunities in the pass game. We’re going to have to convert in the red zone. We’re going to have to be good on third down. So I’ve got full confidence in Robby and this staff of putting him in the right position, and those guys executing the plays.”