Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M defense delivers stifling win over Auburn
Minutes before kickoff on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, CBS announcers Gary Danielson and Brad Nessler spoke about how the Texas A&M-Auburn game might be old-fashioned, like maybe something from 2010.
As it turned out, much of the game looked more like something from 1910.
Seth Small hit 4 field goals and A&M’s defense put the lone touchdown on the board as the Aggies (7-2, 4-3 SEC) knocked off the Tigers 20-3 in an SEC West battle that was 6-3 heading into the 4th quarter.
Defensive end Micheal Clemons picked up a Bo Nix fumble and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown with 13:04 left in the game as A&M reached the end zone at last. That put the Aggies up 15-3 and Zach Calzada hit Ainias Smith for a 2-point conversion to make it 17-3. Nix wasn’t hit to force the fumble; he simply dropped the ball.
A&M bolstered its case for a New Year’s Day 6 bowl bid and remained in contention for the SEC West championship thanks to its earlier victory over Alabama.
Calzada unloaded a 49-yard pass to Caleb Chapman to the Auburn 32 midway through the third quarter, then hit Smith for a 18-yard play over the middle to set up the Aggies at the 4. But consecutive penalties pushed the Aggies back to the 14, then Calzada got knocked out of the game after taking a hit to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The drive stalled and Small’s 29-yard field goal gave A&M a 6-3 lead with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
Calzada came back into the game after sitting out briefly for Texas A&M, which was No. 14 in the first College Football Playoff rankings issued last week.
Even one of the biggest offensive plays of the day turned into a defensive highlight. Devon Achane gained 47 yards on a run the fourth quarter but had the ball punched out by Auburn safety Donovan Kaufman, and cornerback Roger McCreary recovered the fumble at the Tigers’ 4-yard line.
Isaiah Spiller ran for 109 yards for the Aggies. Nix passed for 153 yards and Tank Bigsby rushed for 69 for No. 13 Auburn (6-3, 3-2). Nix was intercepted by Jaylon Jones with 2:48 left, ending Auburn’s last faint hope.
It was a slog for the offenses throughout. A rare Anders Carlson missed field goal, from 33 yards, ended Auburn’s first drive of the second half.
The first half was definitely a defensive display. The teams combined for just 19 first downs and 270 total yards (162 by A&M) in the first two quarters.
Small missed a 42-yard field goal try for A&M in the second quarter, ending what had been a 45-yard, 8-play drive.
In the first quarter, the teams exchanged field goals, both capping 14-play drives. The Aggies went80 yards to the Auburn 4-yard line before opening the scoring on Small’s 21-yard field goal. The Tigers responded with a 60-yard drive to set up Anders Carlson’s 32-yarder.
Coming in, the Tigers had never lost at Kyle Field, going 4-0 there.