Auburn football: Tigers' 3 fatal flaws in loss to Texas A&M
Auburn put up a fight. But in the end, a 4th-quarter collapse and the Texas A&M ground game spelled the end of the Tigers’ perfect record at home this season.
Texas A&M marched down the field on their opening drive and looked like they might run away with the game. But Auburn battled back and held a lead entering the final 15 minutes before ultimately coming up short. The Aggies dominated the line of scrimmage in a season-best performance on the ground.
Gus Malzahn’s attempt to play spoiler and a chance at 7 wins are now in the past. The Tigers have 1 final shot to finish the season above .500. There were plenty of issues in Auburn’s 31-20 loss, but these were the 3 biggest.
1. Bo Nix: Love him, hate him
We got the full Bo Nix experience.
The box score will show Nix finished with 49 yards rushing. In reality, he likely covered the distance from College Station to Auburn. That’s Nix in a nutshell. He may not always make the easiest play, but he sure is a competitor who toughs it out to the end.
It’s an emotional roller-coaster for anyone with an invested interest in watching Nix and Auburn. One second, Nix is being crushed for a sack; the next, he is making a Houdini-like escape and diving for the goal line to put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
The Bo Nix who came to play against the Aggies has become standard operating procedure. All year, he has shown flashes of growth as a passer. But there are still far too many times when he is lacking in basic quarterback mechanics.
In the 2nd quarter, Nix missed a 20-yard touchdown throw to a wide-open Eli Stove in the end zone that Malzahn could have completed. Nix had plenty of time to set his feet, but he chose to throw on the run, and it cost him and the Auburn offense 4 early points.
Bo Nix had him wide open and completely missed 🤦♂️https://t.co/blp0zYEBca
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) December 5, 2020
On the very next series, Nix demonstrated that he is a capable passer, firmly planting his feet and connecting with Seth Williams for a 28-yard gain. It’s that sort of dichotomy in plays that drives Auburn fans crazy and will ultimately hold Auburn back from competing for the SEC West until he becomes more consistent.
There’s no question that Nix brings fire and passion to his team. He continually fights for yards when the play seems all but over. But 144 passing yards against the No. 5 team in the country just won’t get the job done.
2. Texas A&M’s offensive line was as advertised
For all the pregame talk that Kellen Mond was going to have to win it for Texas A&M, how the quarterback plays is almost irrelevant when you can run for 313 yards.
The Aggies already had one of the best rushing attacks in the league entering Jordan-Hare, but the 313 yards were a season high, as were the 47 carries. A&M averaged 6.7 yards a carry, and it was all Auburn could do to get their hands on Isaiah Spiller. Of Spiller’s 20 carries, 7 were for at least 9 yards. Spiller, who finished with 120 yards, and Devon Achane, who had 99, were just a yard away from becoming the first pair of backs to each have 100 yards against Auburn since Wisconsin accomplished the feat in the 2014 Outback Bowl.
“We always pride ourselves with stopping the run first,” senior defensive back Jordyn Peters said. “When they’re busting out runs like that, it’s a red flag of course if we pride ourselves on run defense initially. We also pride ourselves on adversity, so when that’s happening, shoot, buckle up and let’s go. It’s war time.”
Even Mond got in on the fun, rushing for a season-high 60 yards and showing that his dual-threat capabilities are not to be dismissed in comparison to Nix. The Tigers were able to get to Mond once, just the 4th sack the Aggies have allowed all season. But Mond was never under much duress, allowing him to complete an efficient 18 of 23 passes.
3. The worst quarter of Auburn’s season
Holding a 6-point lead against the No. 5 team in the country is probably not the best time to lay an egg.
That’s exactly what happened in the 4th quarter with Auburn leading 20-14. The Tigers were outscored 17-0 and outgained 168-21, struck out on 3 3rd-down conversions and managed -9 rushing yards.
“They made the plays with the game on the line to win. Kind of sums up the day,” Malzahn said. “In a game like that, we’ve got to be able to execute when the game is on the line. We didn’t.”
Entering Saturday, Auburn had outscored opponents by 22 points in the 4th quarter. The only game in which the Tigers were outscored in the 4th was against LSU, when Auburn had their backups in.
Following a 42-yard run by Tank Bigsby in the 3rd quarter Saturday, Auburn mustered just 25 yards on their final 17 plays. Mond led 3 drives of at least 55 yards, and the Aggies exited Jordan-Hare with their 7th win of the season.