The Opening Drive: Auburn vs. Missouri

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AUBURN, Ala. – Senior tight end Luke Deal said it best Monday. When you get hit in the mouth, you can either fold or you can get back up and improve. 

This Auburn team got hit in the mouth by Penn State last Saturday. But it was one game. They reviewed the tape Sunday and came back to practice Tuesday ready to go to work. 

“Obviously, things didn’t go our way,” Deal said. “There are some things we had to fix, some things we’re still fixing. Every week in this in this league, you’ve got to flip the page. You can’t let a team beat you twice. So that’s kind of the mindset.”

“Players don’t hang on to this stuff as long as we do,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said. “They have practice. They have individual conditioning. They have to get on to what’s next. I thought they did that (this week), and there was urgency. They were moving around, and I think there was a sense of, ‘You know what, that wasn’t good enough.'”

It won’t be difficult to get back up for this Saturday’s game, knowing what’s at stake. Not only are the Tigers back home in Jordan-Hare Stadium, but they also kick off SEC play against Missouri. It’s a new season, a chance for a fresh start. 

“It’s SEC play, all chips are on the table,” said Deal. “You win the SEC, you’re in the playoff. Period. It’s the best conference in football. Every team in the SEC is solid, every team is going to give you their best shot, and that’s kind of what we’re preaching to the young guys.”

Auburn has won four of its past five SEC openers, including a 24-19 win at LSU last year. This year’s opener features a Missouri team that has never been to the Plains. 

The battle of the Tigers will kick off at 11 a.m. CT from Jordan-Hare Stadium and will be televised on ESPN with Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III and Quint Kessenich on the call. You can also listen to Andy Burcham, Stan White and Ronnie Brown who will have the radio call on 93.9 Tiger FM and online at

Auburn will also be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Title IX this weekend with various recognitions before and during Saturday’s game. Click here for more. 

AUBURN, AL - September 17, 2022 - Auburn Defensive Back Zion Puckett (#10) during the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL.Photo By Austin Perryman


Three questions with DB Zion Puckett

Q: What’s been the mentality this week? How do you turn the page? 

A: After the game on Sundays, we come in, watch the film, get critical questions and answers. I feel like doing that helped us a lot, figuring out the little things we missed in the game. Once Tuesday comes, the first practice, we flush it and we’re on to the next opponent. 

Q: There are still nine games left. What do you want the identity of this team to be? 

A: When something bad happens or adversity hits, you want to see how people respond. I think everybody responded the right way. Everybody came out to work. Just going out day after day and keep working, keep stacking blocks and building – we’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter about a record. It’s about who comes out every Saturday and plays.

Q: On Sundays, you’re seeing Auburn defensive backs make an impact across the NFL. They’ve created this legacy here. How do you want to carry that on?     

A: Before I leave here, I want people to remember me as a ‘work, hard work’ person. Just that Auburn mentality, that toughness, being able to go in and go out, perform each and every day. And I want to be somebody impactful on the community, on campus and off campus. 


Inside the Series: Missouri

Saturday will be just the fourth meeting between Auburn and Missouri in series history and the first game played between the two in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn leads the all-time series 2-1 with wins coming in the 2013 SEC championship game (59-42) and in Columbia in 2017 (51-14). Missouri was a 34-17 winner in the 1973 Sun Bowl. 

Missouri is the last of the current SEC members to visit the Plains. 

In SEC play all-time, Auburn holds a 333-262-18 mark going back to 1933. In SEC games played in Auburn, the Tigers are 142-64-6 all-time. Away from Auburn, the Tigers are 191-197-12 overall in conference games. 


By the Numbers

25: Junior Tank Bigsby is tied for second among FBS running backs this season in most missed tackles forced on runs with 25, per PFF. Through three games, Bigsby leads the team with 238 yards on 38 carries and is averaging 6.26 yards per carry. 

4: Senior edge Eku Leota is tied for fourth in the SEC with four tackles for loss through the first three games this season, including two tackles for loss against Penn State. Leota has recorded at least one tackle for loss in four straight games dating back 2021. 

12.7: Newcomer Keionte Scott had an impressive 14-yard punt return in Saturday’s game against Penn State. The junior college transfer currently ranks sixth in the SEC and 15th nationally with a 12.7-yard punt return average on six returns this season. 

51: Auburn has won 51 of its 88 SEC openers in program history, including a 24-19 win on the road at LSU last season to begin conference play. The Tigers are 51-32-5 (.608) all-time and are 24-5 over their last 29 SEC opening games. 


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Greg Ostendorf

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