No. 8 Auburn defeated No. 17 Texas A&M 28-20 at Kyle Field on Saturday in a highly anticipated SEC matchup. Despite the Aggies pulling within one score by the end of the game, it was a fairly one-sided affair for most of the afternoon.
Here are the best and worst moments of the Aggies' fourth game of the season:
The Tigers did not hold back on their first possession of the game, a drive that went 75 yards on four plays in less than two minutes. Auburn ran a trick play from their own 43-yard line that resulted in a 57-yard touchdown for wide receiver Anthony Schwartz. Quarterback Bo Nix handed the ball off to running back Jatarvious Whitlow, who looked like he was going around the right edge. Before Whitlow made his cut upfield, he tossed the ball to Schwartz, who had plenty of room to run on the left side.
Schwartz slipped between two Aggie defenders and ran all the way to the left corner of the end zone for the first score of the game.
Texas A&M's offense as a whole struggled in the first half, including quarterback Kellen Mond. However, Mond pulled the Aggies within striking distance with a stellar performance in the final two quarters. With a nonexistent rushing attack, Mond was forced to step up. He completed 17 of his 25 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to bring the Aggies within one score of Auburn.
What a throw by Kellen Mond for six. pic.twitter.com/TF42YqfhME— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
Early in the fourth quarter, Mond found wide receiver Quartney Davis on a 27-yard touchdown connection that made the score 21-10 and gave the Aggies some hope. It was the best passing touchdown of the game because of what happened after the catch. After securing the ball inside the 10-yard line, Davis had a nifty duck that made the defensive back whiff on the tackle and allowed him to run into the left corner of the end zone.
It provided the first real roar from the Aggie faithful.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Whitlow pounded his way through the Texas A&M defense for an 8-yard touchdown. The talented sophomore broke free from two Aggie tacklers to score his fourth touchdown of the season.
JaTarvious Whitlow would not be denied a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/RhgryZiYyJ— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
Despite what the score might indicate, the Aggie defense played a fairly solid game. Texas A&M took advantage of freshman quarterback Bo Nix's inexperience, holding him to 12-of-20 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown. They also allowed one easy touchdown to fellow freshman quarterback Joey Gatewood. It was a different story against the run, where the Aggies gave up 193 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense held on when they could, but they were simply not getting any help from the offense, who could not capitalize on key stops.
Here come the Aggies, and down goes Nix. pic.twitter.com/4p8pmMvYn8— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
Late in the second quarter, Mond threw a pass well behind wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon on first down. Ausbon stopped in his tracks and had to completely stretch his left arm out to snag the ball and bring it into his body. Ausbon was one of the stars on offense Saturday, catching eight passes for 111 yards.
Anyone figure out how Jhamon Ausbon caught this? pic.twitter.com/jSdy3Cf4J1— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
The Aggie offense found something late in the third quarter as their eight-play, 85-yard scoring drive carried over into the fourth quarter. They only ran the ball once, as Mond completed six of seven passes on the drive, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Davis. The Aggies scored points on their next two possessions, but it was too little too late as the clock ticked down.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher must have been wondering where that production was for the first three-quarters of the game.
On the last play of the first quarter, Mond found Ausbon in the middle of the field for a 41-yard connection. Mond dropped the ball right over the defensive back, who was in a good position and put the offense on the Tigers' 22-yard line. Ausbon did a good job to hold onto the ball, as he had to press it against his helmet and fight off the defender.
The play resulted in the wide receiver's 100th career catch. It was the first, and only, big play for the Aggies in the first half, and although the drive did not end in a touchdown, Seth Small converted a 33-yard field goal to put the maroon and white on the scoreboard.
Down by 15 points with less than five minutes left in the game, the Aggie defense forced the Tigers to punt. Roshauud Paul muffed the punt and sent the ball bouncing. Luckily for Texas A&M, Travon Fuller was the first one to the ball, saving what would have been a game-killing mishap.
On the ensuing drive, the Aggies managed to cut the deficit to 8 points and gave themselves a chance at tying the game in the waning minutes.
Everyone could see that the Aggies were struggling to move the chains for the first 30 minutes of the game. They totaled 154 yards and just 3 points in the first half, even with 18 minutes of possession. Mond finished the first half completing 14 of his 24 pass attempts for 142 yards and just a 5.9-yard average.
Even worse, the Aggies only gained 12 yards on the ground on 13 attempts. Two missed field goals by Small did not help the cause. To be fair, Auburn only totaled 149 yards in the first half, but two early touchdowns masked their struggles.
Texas A&M had hoped that freshman Isaiah Spiller and junior Jacob Kibodi could carry the team on the ground after starting running back Jashaun Corbin was lost for the season with a hamstring injury. That did not happen Saturday afternoon, as the Aggies totaled just 56 yards rushing. Mond was the leading rusher with 26 yards, while Kibodi recorded 21 yards and Spiller had nine.
On the first play of the second half, Isaiah Spiller did well to rush for a first down but fumbled the ball while being tackled. Senior defensive back Daniel Thomas squeezed the ball out while making the tackle and recovered that ball at the Texas A&M 38-yard line. It was a disastrous start for an Aggie offense that struggled to move the ball in the first half. The turnover led to a 9-yard touchdown reception by Seth Williams that put Auburn up 21-3.
What's an ideal way to start a half? How about forcing a fumble. pic.twitter.com/SjABU8xCud— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
Red zone coverage:
Auburn's second score came on a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joey Gatewood to tight end John Samuel Shenker. Gatewood had Shenker wide open in the left side of the end zone after faking a handoff to running back Kam Martin. The Aggie backs bit on the fake and left the tight end wide open to make the score 14-0 in the first quarter.
*looks up definition of wide open* pic.twitter.com/FfFvWTQ5qb— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 21, 2019
Tight end Glenn Beal was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter after Spiller had been stuffed on third-and-short. The penalty cost the Aggies 15 yards and negated any chance of them going for it on fourth down. I'm not sure they would have anyway, but a conversion would have swung the momentum, which was in the Tigers' favor to that point. The punt resulted in a 30-yard return, which led to Auburn's second touchdown of the game.
After Spiller fumbled on the Aggies' first second-half possession, the Aggies' second drive was almost as bad. Mond was sacked twice to start the series before delay of game and false start penalties put the Aggies at third-and-30 at their own 15-yard line.
Kibodi ran for 22 yards on third down, but the series would end in a Braden Mann punt.