AUBURN – With Auburn dealing with injuries and limitations among its receivers during Saturday’s home opener against Tulane, junior Eli Stove and senior Will Hastings stepped up when the Tigers needed someone to lead the way.
Stove and Hastings became freshman quarterback Bo Nix’s go-to targets in the 24-6 victory over Tulane, with Stove reeling in seven passes for 27 yards and Hastings coming up with five catches for 75 yards. Stove also got involved in the run game in scoring on a four-yard run in the second quarter.
Stove and Hastings’ contributions proved crucial with Anthony Schwartz sporting a heavily-wrapped left arm and Seth Williams left the game in the second quarter with an injury after making a big catch.
Stove was a constant target for Auburn in the first half – both in the passing game and on rushing attempts – but it was Hastings who got the Tigers on the board for the first time.
With 12:54 to go in the second quarter and Auburn in Tulane territory, Hastings ran down the middle of the field, caught Nix’s pass on the Green Wave 15-yard line, hesitated then spun past a Tulane defender for a 31-yard touchdown.
The touchdown was a notable achievement for Hastings, who had not scored since the 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against UCF due to his ACL injury issues last season. The success, however, could only be enjoyed for so long, as the senior took a hit from Tulane defensive back Macon Clark late in the third quarter and left the contest.
Clark was ejected for targeting on the play in question.
Stove, who like Hastings tore his ACL last spring and went through rehab at the same time, got the Tigers on the board again on the next drive.
Two plays after Williams made a 40-yard reception but came up favoring his left shoulder, Stove took the hand-off on an end-around and raced to his right to put Auburn up 14-3 with 9:37 remaining until halftime.
Stove was able to come back and play in four games for the Tigers in 2018, but his impact was so limited that he topped his reception total and yardage gained on Saturday alone.
Although the Auburn offense wasn’t pretty at times, Stove and Hastings proved Saturday they could be relied on when the Tigers’ other passing targets were limited. Their play was much-needed as Auburn reached 2-0, and it may prove even more so with Williams’ uncertain status going forward.