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Analysis: Auburn sets table for potential November to remember

Auburn fought off an early deficit and out-played and out-coached Texas A&M on the road Saturday at College Station.

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson fends off Larry Pryor of the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 4, 2017 in College Station, Texas (Photo: Bob Levey, Getty)


COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Auburn did what it had to do and took control of Texas A&M's mistakes and a stifling defense to grab a 42-27 victory Saturday.

The No. 14 Tigers (7-2, 5-1 SEC) picked up the victory and essentially set up the biggest November since the 2013 season.

The table is set

Auburn did everything it had to do to set up this huge month by kicking it off with a tough-as-nails showing at Texas A&M. The Tigers overcame three mistakes on special teams (and made some luck of their own with a nice punt block for a touchdown) to take advantage of opportunities and win a trap game in College Station.

The Tigers now turn their attention to hosting No. 1 Georgia. A victory against the Bulldogs could possibly set the stage for a showdown for the SEC West title against No 2. Alabama should the Tide take care of business tonight against LSU.

Auburn might not be favored in those two big games, but the Tigers will have homefield advantage as they attempt to snap a three-year losing streak to their biggest rivals.

Gus Malzahn could not afford a loss at Texas A&M because it not only would have taken Auburn out of SEC contention but it would have thrown his job in jeopardy. Now his set up to potentially record his first November to remember since the magical 2013 season.

To get there Malzahn needs to beat Auburn's two biggest rivals and continue to be aggressive on offense and special teams. He and the staff did just that Saturday at Texas A&M and it needs to continue.

Coaching decisions at their best

Give Gus Malzahn a round of applause for his decisions in the first half and beyond. He called for a fake field goal run early in the game and the Tigers easily converted it, but a holding call on Austin Golson brought it back.

Later, the best calls of the season were made: two timeouts with less than 2 minutes remaining and the Aggies with the ball. Auburn’s defense stepped up and instead of settling for halftime and receiving the kickoff to start the second half, Malzahn instead wanted to set up an Aggies punt with 29 seconds remaining.

The gamble paid off as Nick Ruffin leaped from the left, blocked the punt high in the air with his right arm and Malik Miller recovered it for a touchdown in the end zone to give Auburn a 21-13 lead at halftime and give the Tigers a 14-0 scoring spurt in a matter of 76 seconds.

This aggressiveness, even when it didn’t work on special teams, has to be applauded, especially on the road.

Oh, and don’t forget the decision to insert Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. at left tackle and move Austin Golson from the left side to right tackle. It helped fix some protection issues in the second quarter.

Auburn leans on Jarrett Stidham, receivers

Auburn wanted to run the ball effectively against Texas A&M. That didn’t necessarily happen early in the game, so they turned to Jarrett Stidham. Not much happened on the first few drives and Stidham was sacked twice in the first quarter, but the Tigers adjusted (see the pass protection changes above) and Stidham got more time in the pocket as his receivers started fighting off the line of scrimmage.

Stidham started the game 10 of 10 passing for 87 yards and one touchdown, but the big plays were not happening. Then the top was blown off by Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton. Slayton caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and later came down with a 46-yarder to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Kerryon Johnson. The 53-yard pass was a thing of beauty and perfect execution by Slayton and Stidham.

Stidham entered the midpoint of the third quarter 17 of 22 passing for 239 yards and three touchdowns while the rushing offense had barely eclipsed 100 yards total. He even had a 24-yard run, the longest by any Auburn player at that time. He finished 20 of 27 for 268 yards and three scores.

Johnson finished with 145 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries.

Defense does what it has to do

IT wasn't pretty but Auburn was stellar at times on defense, forcing seven three-and-outs and holding Texas A&M to only 21 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.

There will be mistakes to be cleaned up but this was as good of a performance as the Tigers could hope for on the road with a quarterback change and bad field position.

That field goal unit though

Auburn allowed two Daniel Carlson field goals to be blocked, effectively eliminating him from the running for the Lou Groza Award.

Low kicks or not, the line didn’t do its job and Carlson got the raw end of the deal in the final road game of the season.

Oh, and the kickoff coverage on that 72-yard return in the final 5 minutes wasn't great, either. The Tigers have plenty to work on with special teams, even though they blocked a punt for a touchdown. This was as strange of a game for special teams as Auburn has seen in recent seasons.

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  • WarTiger changed the title to table set for November
  • 2 weeks later...

2 out of 3 the big one to go.  Sop Jalen Hurts he has not been hit all year.


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Cut vid on al.com....SEC Shorts....."Georgia charged with impersonating a #1 football team"    cute and hit the dawgs pretty good.  


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