A War of Attrition

Lack of Offense Dooms Tigers on the Road

The Auburn defense kept the Tigers in the game throughout, but eventually the Tigers’ offensive woes doomed their hopes of a third straight win over a ranked SEC West foe.  Texas A&M (No. 14, 7-2, 4-2 SEC) scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 20-3 victory.  Auburn (No. 13, 6-3, 3-2 SEC) went into the locker room with a 3-3 tie but could never get on the scoreboard in the second half.  Neither teamed scored an offensive touchdown, as A&M scored their points via four Seth Small field goals and a fumble return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Michael Clemons. Anders Carlson scored Auburn’s only three points on a 32-yardfield goal in the first quarter.

​Following back-to-back strong outings from junior quarterback Bo Nix, Nix struggled to get the offense going against a stout Aggies’ defense.  Auburn was limited to 226 total yards of offense and had two costly Nix turnovers.  Nix fumbled in the fourth quarter with Auburn trailing 9-3 on a bootleg to his left which led to Clemons’ scoop and score.  At the time, the play felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back as the defensive score put the Aggies up by two possessions.  Nix was later intercepted by Jaylon Jones on a fourth down pass with less than three minutes to play in the game.  While Nix struggled at times, he did not get much help from his offensive teammates either.  Auburn receivers had multiple drops in the outing, and Nix was constantly running for his life as the Aggie defensive line lived in the Tigers’ backfield throughout the afternoon.  As senior tight end John Samuel Shenker put it, “everything seemed a click off” for the offense.

​Both teams put together 14 play drives in the first quarter, but they were both forced to settle for field goals at the end of the long drives.  Texas A&M struck first on their first offensive possession marching down the field with relative ease before the defense stiffened on a goal to go situation.  Seth Small booted through his first field goal of the afternoon from 21 yards out to give the Aggies the early lead.  However, the Auburn offense managed to answer right back.  The Tigers strung together their own 14 play drive featuring a pair of key third down conversions to get into Carlson’s range.  Carlson split the uprights from 32 yards out to tie the game.

​From that point on, both offenses struggled mightily to move the football for the remainder of the first half.  A&M did get into field goal range in the second quarter, but Small’s attempt sailed wide right.  Neither offense managed to convert a third down in the first half after Auburn’s field goal drive as A&M finished the half 0/6 and the Tigers finished 2/8.

​Coming out of the locker room, it seemed like the Tigers were poised to get some momentum going.  The defense forced a three and out on the Aggies’ opening possession and then the offense methodically moved the ball down the field to get into field goal range.  However, Carlson pushed his attempt wide right as the game remained tied.  The Aggies finally broke the deadlock after Zach Calzada found Chase Campbell for a 49-yard bomb on a post route to get into field goal range and take a 6-3 lead.  A&M added another field goal early in the fourth quarter to push their lead to six.  Calzada briefly left the game early in the fourth with a shoulder injury after a hard hit from Smoke Monday at the end of a quarterback draw but did return to lead the offense.

​Auburn was looking to get any sort of offensive momentum going following the Aggies’ third field goal.  On their next drive they attempted to pull off a flea flicker, but Nix dropped the toss and barely managed to avoid a disastrous play by scooping up the loose ball and throwing it away.  However, disaster did strike on the next play when Nix dropped the ball rolling to his left leading to Clemons’ aforementioned scoop and score.

​Texas A&M had 409 total yards of offense including 217 on the ground.  Calzada turned in a gutsy performance at the quarterback position completing 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards.  Isaiah Spiller turned in a 100-yard performance turning 21 carries into 112 yards and Devon Achane added 98 yards on 10 carries.

​Auburn’s Nix completed 20 of 41 passes for 153 yards and one interception.  Tank Bigsby ran 15 times for 69 yards.  Shenker led the Auburn receiving corps with four catches for 50 yards.  Shaun Shivers added a career high six catches for 40 yards.  The Auburn offensive line allowed four sacks and six total tackles for loss on the afternoon.  Auburn’s longest offensive play of the game was a 15-yard completion to Luke Deal in the third quarter.  Smoke Monday led the defense with nine total tackles.  The Tigers did have one takeaway in the second half when Donovan Kaufman ran down Achane after a long gain and punched the ball out from behind leading to a Roger McCreary fumble recovery.  The Auburn defense recorded four tackles for loss on the afternoon.

​Auburn will look to get back on track next Saturday in another SEC West showdown against Mississippi State.  Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium against the Bulldogs.

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