Auburn Flops Against Texas A&M


By Wil Crews

The Auburn offense posted its worst performance under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin Saturday as the Tigers lost a defensive contest, 20-3, to No. 14 Texas A&M at Kyle Field.

After registering a field goal on their second drive of the game, the Tigers’ offense looked lifeless for the rest of the contest versus the Aggies as the talent gap between the two teams was apparent and Auburn was unable to overcome its miscues and lack of big plays.

The Tigers were firmly in the ball game until the fourth quarter when quarterback Bo Nix was scrambling away from the A&M pass rush and simply dropped the ball which was subsequently picked up by the Aggies and ran in for a touchdown.

The score made it 17-3 in favor of the Aggies and seemed to obliterate any remaining confidence the struggling Tiger offense had. Whether it was dropped passes or an inability to win assignments on the offensive line, Auburn’s offense looked inept for virtually all of the game. 

Overall, the game looked eerily similar to Auburn’s narrow win over the inferior Georgia Southern in week two of the season. Instead of benching Nix like he did against the Eagles, however, Harsin decided to keep the ball in the hands of the junior who was unable to gain any momentum or — at the least — perform any Houdini-like scramble acts that have flipped momentum in favor of the Tigers throughout this season.

On a positive note, however, the Derrick Mason-led defense had its first touchdown shutout of the season, holding A&M to four field goals offensively.

While the Aggie rushing attack found success on the ground (217 total yards on 6.2 yards per carry), the Auburn defense employed its bend-don’t-break mentality as best as it has done this season and A&M quarterback Zach Clazada finished with a similarly pedestrian stat line (15-for-29 for 192 yards and zero TD’s) to Nix.

Offensively for the Tigers, however, it was a mess (It cannot be said enough.). Coming off their best rushing performance against an SEC opponent this season last week against Ole Miss, the Tigers were limited to just 117 total yards on the ground. Tank Bigsby had a solid day — 15 carries for 70 yards — and arguably should have gotten more looks, but the Auburn offense has looked best this year when it passed to set up the run. Can’t fault the game plan there. Additionally, however, Bigsby’s backup, freshman Jarquez Hunter, was limited to just 18 yards and the typically evasive Nix could only manage an additional 21 yards with his scrambling ability.

The bigger issue for the Tigers, however, was the pass game. Against the vaunted A&M defense, the offensive looked woeful and the receiving core’s inexperience bled through as they dropped passes like a group of guys who had just seen a disappointing movie and got over it by slathering their hands in popcorn butter.

Furthermore, both running and passing, the Tigers repeatedly failed to execute big plays. A 15-yard Bigsby run was the best singular snap Auburn posted all day. Low-yardage first down plays and miscues on second down put the offense in exactly where a team doesn’t want to be when facing a ranked SEC opponent on the road — third and long.

It’s hard to ask a team to go on the road in a hostile environment and put together multiple long scoring drives without any chunk plays to get them near the end zone. Add in a missed field goal that at the time would have made it a three-point game, and the odds were stacked firmly against Auburn.

Additionally, it is worrisome that Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have yet opted to make changes to the starting offensive line which has now crumbled against the top two defenses it has seen — Georgia and A&M. That may not be a problem the Tigers can fix this season.

In the end, all hope is not lost for the Tigers and their supporting Auburn family. Auburn still has a ranked matchup against Mississippi State this weekend and can play spoiler to Alabama’s year in the final game of the season. If that isn’t enough to boost morale, basketball season is right around the corner. Harsin and his Tigers let the fanbase — and themselves — down Saturday, but things are still going objectively well for the Tigers given where they were predicted to finish at the beginning of the season.

Let’s see if Auburn can keep that “1-0” mentality that Harsin has been preaching in the forefront of its mind and move on from an ugly loss to Texas A&M to finish the season strong.


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