In case you missed it, Auburn went on the road against a home favorite and took care of business. In fact, they didn’t just take care of business, but the Tigers controlled the game against Texas A&M from start to finish. After scoring on the fourth play of the game, the outcome was never really in doubt and the Aggies teetered on the edge of collapse time and again. It was only by the grace of a juiced up freshman quarterback that A&M wasn’t in a deep dark hole, since Bo Nix’s nerves clearly got the better of him a few times and he missed the deep throws that would’ve put the nail in the coffin.
But hey, stats aside, a win is a win and Auburn looked good. There’s a lot to unpack, but first, enjoy the highlights.
It was one of the most well-coached games of Gus Malzahn’s career, as he hid the things that Auburn didn’t do well in games 1-3, and somehow turned them into strengths.
First of all, despite the overthrows and the low passing total, Bo Nix was ready for 100,000+ hostile fans trying to rattle him. He led an efficient and productive offense even if he didn’t have a great game based on the numbers.
Auburn WR Seth Williams on QB Bo Nix’s first road start: “He took it like an old head, didn’t he?”— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 21, 2019
For the really clutch drives that Nix lead, Joey Gatewood’s limited time in the game was just as crucial. What they’ve set up over the first few weeks completely opened up the touchdown pass to John Samuel Shenker, and Gatewood didn’t seem rattled to be coming in at a really critical time either.
Auburn HC Gus Malzahn: "Both of my quarterbacks, they're playing for the first time. You can't lose sight of that. The good thing is that the future is going to be fun... but there are going to be some growing pains."— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 21, 2019
And while Bo was great in his first road start, there were other players on the Auburn side that were dealing with their first starting action away from home. Pretty much all of our starting linebackers are new after the departure of some mainstays over the past few years. K.J. Britt and Owen Pappoe don’t seem to have any sort of drop in production from Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams.
Assistant coach Travis Williams on his linebackers: 'They're ready for the big stage,' via the Auburn post-game show. 'I want them to understand the standard' of playing linebacker at Auburn.— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 21, 2019
Elsewhere, Auburn’s run game found cracks in the A&M defense. After watching the performance against Tulane, yesterday would’ve seemed nearly impossible. The Tigers simply were not good at running the football, but things appear to be A) turning in their favor, and B) maybe hindsight is something to be considered. Oregon’s defense is now rated as one of the top units in the country, and Tulane is a top Group of Five defense as well. Maybe Auburn’s struggles earlier this season were based on solid competition instead of incompetency from the offense.
Auburn HC Gus Malzahn says the Tigers have to continue to get better with WR blocking, even though today looked like the best one of the season.— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 21, 2019
The best perimeter blocker, Shedrick Jackson, did not make the trip with an ankle injury.
Receiver blocking is a huge part of this offense, and key blocks by wideouts have sprung some of the biggest plays in recent Auburn memory (McCalleb against LSU?). Yesterday that area was so much improved from what we saw against Oregon. Remember Seth Williams getting buried on a receiver screen in the opener? Remember the same play yesterday? He had plenty of room to run for a key first down. There’s room to improve, but the strides already made are huge.
Speaking of receivers...
Maybe the quote of the night from Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz on his 57-yard touchdown run:— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) September 22, 2019
"We kind of go by hashes, so when I knew when we were on that hash, and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m ready.’ And then he called it and I’m like, ‘All right. Touchdown. Get the band ready.'"
It’s really nice to have Anthony Schwartz back on the field. His touchdown sparked what turned into a mini-blowout, and it gives such a new element to the offense that teams must respect. The fastest man in football is so dangerous, and him being in the game plan will alow the more traditional run game to flourish.
Now, what can you say about how the best defensive lineman in the country played yesterday? Derrick Brown finished the afternoon with 4 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and a forced fumble. He manhandled the Aggies up front, was likely the MVP of the game, but he limped off late.
He’s apparently okay.
Derrick Brown got to the team bus, turned around and ran back through the stadium gate towards Auburn's locker room shouting "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!"— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) September 22, 2019
He left his Chick-fil-A box behind after talking to media. Priorities.
“I love you, Derrick!”— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 22, 2019
@K_Britt10 across the media room, to @DerrickBrownAU5 after 28-20 @AuburnFootball win at TAMU.
7 tackles, 1 TFL for KJ:
“Fast, physical & play with effort.” pic.twitter.com/BtG4pO57ET
I love you too, Derrick. Need ya, big guy.
Now, Auburn moved up in the AP and Coaches Polls to #7 after the Notre Dame loss to Georgia. The Tigers opened up as a 10-point favorite against Mississippi State next Saturday as the Bulldogs come to visit Jordan-Hare Stadium. Looking at the way that Auburn’s improved each week, you can expect the line to inch up closer toward two touchdowns before kickoff. If Auburn gets by the Bulldogs, you can expect the Tigers to have a second College Gameday atmosphere when they visit Gainesville for what’s sure to be a top ten matchup.
Enjoy what’s happening right now, everyone. This is a team with a ton of potential. While other top teams are playing at their ceiling right now, I don’t know if anyone has a full bead on exactly how good Auburn can be. One thing’s for sure, they’re getting battle tested each week and so far they’ve come out clean. Nothing’s more important than 4-0, and it feels pretty good right now. War Eagle.