Auburn looking for QB improvement, will face Samford next

Auburn’s Payton Thorne came up with the winning touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to beat Cal last week, but his coach wasn’t pleased with the quarterback’s play for much of the game.

It was Thorne’s second scoring pass of the game as the Tigers beat Cal 14-10 in Berkeley. On the flip side, the junior lost a fumble on the game’s opening possession, threw an interception in the second quarter and finished with just 94 yards passing, completing 9 of 14 attempts.

Auburn coach Hugh Freeze wants to see more from his veteran signal caller, starting Saturday night when the Samford Bulldogs visit.

“I don’t know that that’s exactly what I want it to look like, but we just had no juice, no momentum, and so you are kind of searching for it,” Freeze said. “We need Payton to play better, truthfully, too. Now, the last drive he played well. Prior to that, I think a few of the throws were inaccurate. I thought he left the pocket early once.

“And look, I’m not beating up Payton. He played really well that last possession, but we really do need more consistency there throughout the whole game.”

Running back Jarquez Hunter returned to action after sitting out the opener and finished with team highs in carries (11) and yards (53) for Auburn (2-0).

Freeze said Monday that Rivaldo Fairweather, who caught the game-winning 5-yard touchdown pass on a 50-50 ball in the end zone, would be more involved in the offense moving forward. The Florida International transfer led the Tigers in receptions (three) and yards (39).

Samford (1-1 overall) is coming off a disappointing 30-7 loss to host Western Carolina in its Southern Conference opener last week. The game was interrupted due to lightning and was delayed for almost six hours.

Two major issues the Bulldogs had were running the football and protecting the quarterback. Samford finished with just 46 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Jay Stanton led the team with 26 yards on seven carries.

Quarterback Michael Hiers completed 21 of 34 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown but was sacked six times and lost a fumble.

Hiers was named the Southern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week after the Bulldogs’ season-opening 69-14 win over Division II Shorter on Aug. 31. He completed 28 of 35 passes for five touchdowns. The Birmingham, Ala., native said that playing for the Bulldogs in nearby Homewood has been a goal.

“I kind of always wanted to come to Samford,” Hiers said.

–Field Level Media