Tigers Take Texas A&M! (Grading Auburn’s 28–20 win over the Aggies)
Anthony Schwartz lit the fuse!
(John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s SEC road opening 28–20 win over number-17-ranked Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. This game almost got away late, as the Aggies rolled over the Tiger defense in the 4th quarter to the tune of 17 points. Auburn had to recover an onside kick and run out the clock with a first down late.
Quite frankly, I was worried about how Auburn was going to manage to move the ball against a very stingy defense. The first drive featured an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, and bell-cow running back JaTarvious Whitlow was nowhere to be seen. I don’t think the Aggies were really prepared for the quicker Shaun Shivers. Nor were they prepared to see Bo Nix keep the ball on the zone read. A few plays later, Auburn caught the Aggies with a reverse to Anthony Schwartz, and the speedy wide receiver was off to the races for a lead that would have been good all the way into the 4th quarter.
In Auburn’s third series, Bo Nix threw just enough to keep the Aggie defense honest, and Auburn methodically moved the ball down to the 6-yard line. From there, Joey Gatewood came in at quarterback and surprised everyone in the stadium when he threw the ball to John Samuel Schenker, who was wide open in the end zone for the score.
Trailing 14–3 at the half, the Aggies fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, and Auburn was in business at the Aggie 38. Bo Nix completed passes to Jay Jay Wilson, Anthony Schwartz on a pop pass, and a slant and crash to Seth Williams for the touchdown. The Aggies were in trouble from that point on, trailing 21–3.
Texas A&M would cut the Auburn lead to 21–10 early in the 4th quarter, but Auburn went 69 yards in 12 plays, mostly on the ground, with a well-rested JaTarvious Whitlow leaning on a tired Aggie defense. The Aggies would add a field goal drive and a late touchdown drive against a pretty soft Auburn prevent defense to account for the final margin.
The Auburn defense played lights out for 3 quarters and largely stoned the Aggie rushing attack. Unfortunately in the 4th quarter, Auburn had no answer for quick passes from Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond and surrendered a ton of yardage. Other teams have also exploited that against Auburn this season. I’d expect Mississippi State to go right to that strategy next Saturday evening against the Tigers.
Auburn had the best special teams day of the year, allowing 7 total punt return yards on 3 returns. Arryn Siposs flipped the field on punts. Anders Carlson was again successful on every kick, and Auburn sported dangerous return units. About the only quibble I can come up with here is one second-half punt fielded at the 4-yard line.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. I counted off mostly for several offsides penalties. Other than the flags, Auburn had a dominant day against the Aggie offensive line. Derrick Brown in particular was nigh unblockable, and caused havoc in the middle even when he was double-teamed. The line contributed only 11 total tackles but made it easy for the back end of the defense to clean up runners and knocked the Aggie quarterback down more than a dozen times. The Aggie statistician only recorded 6 quarterback hurries in this one. I don’t know what game that guy was watching.
Linebackers: B. This unit contributed 15 tackles on a day when the Aggies only had 21 rushing attempts. The Aggies were able to pass the ball to the running backs a bit, but Auburn really gave up nothing down the field on that. Texas A&M did try to get their guys loose on the wheel route, and Auburn’s linebackers were not buying that.
Secondary: B. This was a sure-tackling unit but had a tough time stopping big Aggie receivers from catching the ball. Javaris Davis had 2 pass breakups but was picked on some as well. Jhamon Ausbon was a particular problem, contributing 8 catches for the Aggies and moving the chains in the 4th quarter repeatedly. Auburn secondary members contributed 34 tackles.
Punting: A-. I counted off for an early punt that went out of bounds and traveled for only 32 yards, but the rest of the 8 punts by Arryn Siposs had good hang time, and he averaged 43.8 yards with 2 killed inside the Aggie 20-yard line. Coverage was much better than in the first couple of games, with 3 punts returned for only a total of 7 yards.
Punt Returns: A-. Christian Tutt did field one punt at the 4 yard line, but he got it all the way out to the 26, so it was still a successful play. On the day, Tutt had 2 returns for 52 yards. Facing monster Aggie punter Braden Mann, that’s a good day.
Kick Returns: A. The Aggies booted 3 touchbacks on 4 kickoffs. Noah Igbinoghene brought one kickoff out of the end zone and got it to the Auburn 31-yard line. He was a step from breaking it for a score.
Place Kicking: B. Anders Carlson hit all 4 extra-point attempts and nailed 3 touchbacks on 5 kickoffs. Unfortunately, one kickoff went out of bounds. The Aggies returned 1 kickoff, and the runner was spilled at the 20-yard line.
Offensive Line: A-. Auburn did very well up front, allowing only 1 sack and a few tackles for loss. Generally speaking, those losses were because Texas A&M had more men in the box than 5 linemen can block. The Auburn line did this while having no holding penalties, 1 false start and 1 ineligible-receiver-downfield call. I think on the downfield flag, the play call was a run, and Nix was improvising when he threw the ball. I really liked how the Auburn front imposed its will on the drive early in the 4th quarter when the game was salted away.
Running Backs: B. There was not much room to run against a good Aggie front seven, but Auburn’s backs largely did a good job of taking what was there. There were no fumbles this week, and pass blocking was good as well.
Receivers: B+. These guys did OK blocking and caught what was thrown to them. Anthony Schwartz tallied 87 yards on 3 touches. Seth Williams caught the ball in traffic. I enjoyed seeing the Auburn tight ends targeted this week, too. They have been running around wide open for years.
Quarterback: B. Nix had a chance to make an A this game, but missed too many throws down the field that could have been touchdowns. I believe that issue is mainly because of receivers being injured in fall camp, and the chemistry is not quite there. Nix again took care of the football, made 60 percent of his passes, and ran the ball in a timely fashion to move the chains. His awareness is awesome for a true freshman. When Nix pulled the ball and ran for a game-clinching first down, he had the presence of mind to slide down and not go out of bounds.
It is great to go into that magnificent stadium and come out with a win. I feel that one must savor any SEC West road win. And the good news is that I believe that Texas A&M is a better team than Auburn’s next couple of opponents. That bodes well for the continued development of the Auburn team.
Next week, Auburn hosts Mississippi State at 6:00 PM followed by a visit to the Swamp to play Florida the next week. Mississippi State has moved the ball well this year, but it has not played a defense like Auburn’s. On the other side of the ball, Mississippi State has allowed 88 total points playing ULL, Southern Miss, Kansas State and Kentucky.
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