Rapid Reaction: Auburn shuts down Texas A&M in SEC opener
One of the biggest advantages the Aggies were thought to have on Auburn was in their run defense. But it was the Tigers that turned the tables, stifling Texas A&M’s offense in a 28-20 victory on Saturday at Kyle Field in the SEC opener for both teams.
Auburn remains unbeaten at 4-0 while the Aggies fall to 2-2. The visitors have won seven of the eight meetings between the two teams since Texas A&M joined the SEC.
In recent history, when the Auburn Tigers have been at their best was when they had a quarterback who could use his legs with the effectiveness of the best running backs.
They just might have that in 2019, but perhaps in the form of two quarterbacks and not just one. That potential rests in the head of head coach Gus Malzahn, who this season has taken over the play-calling duties. He shuffled the two with success in the early part of the game before settling in with true freshman starter Bo Nix.
Malzahn employed Nix to run the offense and use his strong and accurate arm to keep the Aggies defense honest with his ability to throw the football. But backup QB Joey Gatewood was equally effective as a threat in short-yardage/running situations.
That’s not to say Gatewood can’t throw it. He tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Shenker to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
But Nix, performing like a battle-tested veteran, completed all three passes in Auburn’s short touchdown drive to open the second half, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams, for a commanding 21-3 lead.
Texas A&M received the second-half kickoff, but Auburn DB Daniel Thomas forced and recovered a fumble at the Aggies’ 38-yard line, setting up a short touchdown drive.
The Aggies were hoping to continue their dominance against the run. But Auburn was able to throw off the scent with a reverse play on its initial possession. Anthony Schwartz used his exceptional speed to go 57 yards on the trick play for the game’s first score. It was the Tigers’ longest play from scrimmage this season.
Schwartz set up Auburn’s second score as well, going 18 yards to the Aggies’ 8-yard line to put Gatewood in range for his TD pass.
Texas A&M got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, but the Auburn defense forced the Aggies to settle for Seth Small’s 33-yard field goal and Auburn enjoyed a 14-3 lead at halftime.
The Aggies, limited to just 39 rushing yards through three quarters, abandoned the ground game and QB Kellen Mond began to find his groove. He completed 6 of 7 passes in an 8-play, 90-yard drive, capping the march with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Quartney Davis, that cut Auburn’s lead to 21-10.
But Auburn answered right back, punctuating its dominance with a 12-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that ate up more than 6 minutes of the fourth-quarter clock with JaTarvious Whitlow scoring on a 8-yard run.
Mond went back to work, leading the Aggies to a late touchdown to get within 28-20 but Auburn closed it out.