Before the season started, Auburn fans looked at the schedule. Six huge tests dotted the landscape, with half on the road, and one on a neutral site.
Auburn took care of business at the neutral site against #11 Oregon, and today handled their end of the bargain in the first road trip by taking down #16 Texas A&M 28-20 in College Station.
The Tigers led from start to finish, bucking trends that we’d seen set earlier this season. The defense started strong, and only wavered late when the Aggie receivers decided that they were going to catch every ridiculous pass thrown their way. Even with a huge surge late, Auburn had built an insurmountable lead and A&M’s charge ran out of juice.
On Auburn’s first drive, they struck in a hurry. Unable to catch passes as reliably as he did as a freshman, Anthony Schwartz got into the game plan when he capped the possession with a 57-yard touchdown on a reverse. That drive covered 75 yards in just 4 plays as the Tigers went up 7-0.
A&M made a move on its opening drive, but Seth Small missed a 48-yard field goal after a 44-yard march. After a trade of punts, Auburn again made a move by going on a slightly more methodical drive of 46 yards for the second score of the game. Joey Gatewood entered the game and found John Samuel Shenker wide open in the end zone to put the Tigers on top 14-0.
The two teams combined for 7 punts after that touchdown until A&M missed a long field goal at the end of the first half, and Auburn took a 14-3 edge into the locker room. Through the first half, Auburn’s defense had been on the field for more than 18 minutes, but gave up just 12 rushing yards during that time, while Bo Nix had led an efficient offensive attack.
After halftime, Auburn again showed itself as a solid third quarter team in 2019, as Daniel Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on A&M’s first offensive play. That led to a quick drive for the offense, capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Nix to Seth Williams that gave the Tigers a 21-3 advantage with 12:05 to go in the third quarter. Auburn held that margin through the remainder of the period, and went into the fourth quarter up by three scores.
However, A&M found something that worked in the final period. They scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Mond to Quartney Davis early in the fourth quarter to pull within a 21-10 margin, but Auburn answered. One six-minute drive later, and the Tigers held a 28-10 lead thanks to a tough touchdown run by Boobee Whitlow. That drive covered 69 yards and milked 6:01 off of the clock.
A&M countered with a short Seth Small field goal after a great goal line stand by the Tigers, and followed that up with another touchdown from Kellen Mond — this time to Ainias Smith with 2:12 to play — as they pulled within a 28-20 score.
The Aggies attempted the onside kick, but Whitlow was there in perfect position to recover. Needing one first down to ice the game, Bo Nix scrambled for the necessary yardage on 3rd and 5 to run out the clock, as Gus Malzahn improved to 2-1 against Jimbo Fisher, and Auburn stayed unbeaten in Kyle Field.
It wasn’t the prettiest stat line overall, but anyone that watched the game saw complete domination from Auburn in College Station. The Tigers only gained 291 yards, and gave up a boatload in the fourth quarter, but A&M fans were ready to turn on a team that couldn’t escape the tyranny set upon them by Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, K.J. Britt, and the rest of the Auburn defense. On the other side, Gus Malzahn put his team in position to take advantage of their strengths and coached one of his best games ever. Bo Nix was allowed to get comfortable, and the run game was exceptionally strong in controlling the afternoon. It took the Aggies three quarters to get comfortable, but by the time they did it was way too late.
With the win, Auburn improves to 4-0 overall and wins the SEC opener. Next Saturday, the Tigers return home to face off against Mississippi State in a nighttime showdown.