There were audible groans and lamentations across #AuburnTwitter when it was announced that Sean White was injured and Jeremy Johnson would start at quarterback. In his appearances so far this season, Johnson has looked lost and unable to handle the position of starting quarterback in the SEC.
Something happened on the way to the liquor cabinet, though. Jeremy Johnson came to play. Jovon Robinson picked up right where he left off. The play calling all over the field (even, yes, in the red zone) was beautiful. Johnson began the game 9-9. He didn't have many yards (just 54), but the passing game was working enough to open up the running game for Jovon Robinson.
Then there's the defense. How Auburn would handle Kyler Murray was the question all week. After two interceptions, Will Muschamp was heard to put it best: "you make him play quarterback." Take away his running and force him to be a pocket quarterback. That sounds like a tall order for this season's Auburn defense, but for the first half they were largely able to do it.
A big portion of that is thanks to turnovers, but they were excellent plays by the defense. Carlton Davis pulled down another amazing INT on a deep pass that he wrestled away from the receiver in the end zone. On another red zone trip, Justin Garrett didn't bite what the defense was offering and climbed a latter for another INT.
Unfortunately, the offense stalled late in the second quarter as Jeremy Johnson missed a wide open Kerryon Johnson on a 3rd and 2 swing pass, and then on the next drive the Tigers couldn't convert on the ground with Peyton Barber. While the offense stalled again on its final drive of the half, it didn't matter. Auburn's defense played it's best half of football in years. I really can't remember a better performance, particularly against a team known for offense as Texas A&M is.
Auburn came out firing in the second half, as the offense moved the ball down the field quickly with beautiful passes and runs. Unfortunately the red zone woes popped up again, and the Tigers were forced to go for the field goal. The defense came up big with their third interception of the night on the Aggies' next drive. The Tigers were pushed back by a dumb Cassanova McKinzy penalty, but moved down the field again. For the first time since he's been at Auburn, the Reggie Fish Special worked. The drive stalled into another field goal, though, which Daniel Carlson just barely banked off the upright to make it 20-3 with just over 7:30 to play in the 3rd.
The Aggies came back on their second drive of the half and drove down the field to pick up their first touchdown. They benefitted from an overturned OFFENSIVE targeting call that was, well... I don't even know what targeting is, anymore. It's a toss up every time they call it. The Aggies cut the lead to 10 points with just over 2 minutes to go in the 3rd, but for A&M one of the biggest questions after that drive was what Murray's status was as he went to the locker room.
Auburn came back on their next drive and played angry. Sweep plays gained big yards and the Tigers suddenly found themselves in the red zone, again. The first play was excellent. The second was a loss. The 3rd down play looked good, but A&M was able to keep Auburn out of the end zone, yet again. Daniel Carlson connected on his third FG to make the score 23-10.
A quick three-and-out by the Auburn defense gave the Tigers the ball back. At that point, Auburn decided to slow the pace back considerably (which had been intermittent throughout the night), and let Jovon Robinson run the football and run the clock. However, once again (stop me if you've head this), Auburn couldn't convert in the red zone. Carlson put a nice right-to-left draw on a kick and made the score 26-10 with 6:33 to play in the game.
Texas A&M moved the football thanks to a questionable face mask, a pass interference, and some good plays, too. A holding was finally called on the Aggies that moved them back, and Texas A&M strangely went to the run with the clock running low and needing two scores. They failed to convert on fourth down, and the Tigers regained the ball with a chance to burn the clock.
There are so many stories from tonight that deserve mentioning. I'll cover them, tomorrow. For now, so much praise should be heaped upon the Auburn defense who played their best game in years. Will Muschamp's defense showed up in a really big way.
Jeremy Johnson, much maligned by so many (including myself) ever since the start of the season did everything that was asked of him. He threw a bad pass or two, but overall he controlled the ball, never made any bad mistakes, and led the offense on a roll.
Jovon Robinson is a special running back. He showed why he was so highly recruited.
Not all was rosy, though. Touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone (again), and this is a blowout of epic proportions.
More to come. War Eagle. Always.
War. Damn. Eagle.