AUBURN, Ala. -- Sean White was supposed to revitalize this Auburn offense. He was supposed to provide that spark that would ultimately turn around the season. Instead, the Tigers fell victim this past weekend to the same fate with him under center as they did with Jeremy Johnson the week before. Another loss. And now Auburn is 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC.
“It’s a loss, and as a quarterback, you want to pull out the win,” White said after the game. “I think I did OK. I think I did some good things. But at the end of the day, you want to win.”
White wasn’t great in Saturday’s 17-9 loss to Mississippi State. But considering the redshirt freshman was making his first collegiate start, he wasn’t bad, either. He went 20 of 28 through the air for 188 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 29 yards, and it would have been more had he not been sacked four times.
“Overall, I thought he did a solid job for his first college experience,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He did some good things. He made a mistake or two -- we thought he’d make a mistake or two. Any time you’re playing an SEC opponent, especially in the West, and you’ve got a guy making his first start, he’s going to make some mistakes.
“But I think everyone saw that he competed.”
Before the game, White was cool. He didn’t look nervous when he walked through Jordan-Hare Stadium the first time with his Ray-Bans on. During warmups, he was zipping balls to receivers with the accuracy and arm strength we had only heard about up until that point.
White ran out of the tunnel, toward the front, just as he always had. He threw a couple more balls on the sideline, and once he learned Auburn would receive the opening kick, it was time to go. He got his final instructions from Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and trotted onto the field in front of 87,451 excited fans.
"That’s why I came to Auburn," White said. "To play in games like this."
The first drive started well. After back-to-back running plays, White fired a strike to D'haquille Williams to pick up the first down on 3rd-and-6. Then, after taking a sack, he found running back Kerryon Johnson for a gain of 18 yards. Later in the drive, he connected with Marcus Davis for 22 yards, though the pass was nearly intercepted.
Maybe it was a sign of things to come.
Three plays later, on 3rd-and-goal, White rolled out to his right, threw across his body into a crowd of defenders, and this time the ball was intercepted by Mississippi State cornerback Will Redmond.
“I tried to get away from the defensive end, and when I got away from him, Marcus (Davis) flashed,” White said. “I tried to throw it to him, and No. 2 (Redmond), he made a nice play. He kind of baited me into it.
“It was my first game, and I’ll learn from it. I’ll watch the film and correct it.”
The interception set the tone for the rest of the night. The offense struggled in the red zone, and White took very few shots downfield from that point forward. It was clear the coaching staff wanted to emphasize running the football rather than letting White throw it all game as Auburn, which outgained Mississippi State, finished with 50 runs to just 28 passes.
But despite the loss and some of the struggles on offense, Auburn isn't likely to make another change at quarterback. The coaches are behind White. And so are his teammates.
“I think the future is bright,” Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman said. “You’ve got a guy that can go in with a lot of confidence, not scared of anything. He can go in and run the ball, pass the ball. He’s not scared to get hit or anything like that. We’re just going to build off him from this game forward.”
“The sky’s the limit for him,” added running back Peyton Barber. “He’s a gamer. There’s no telling what he can do in the end.”
White will get another shot this Saturday at home against San Jose State.