It was the first loss for Hugh Freeze as Tigers head coach on Saturday, as Auburn falls to Texas A&M 27-10. The loss puts them at 3-1 on the young season and the Aggies improve to 3-1. The Tigers’ defense did well in the first half to limit the home team to just six points, but the second half was a different game.
A&M starting quarterback Connor Weigman went out with an injury late in the second half, and backup Max Johnson led the team to 21 second-half points. Johnson was seven of 11 for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The Auburn offense struggled to just 200 total yards and only 56 passing yards. The only Tiger touchdown came from the defense. Standouts for Auburn were running backs Jarquez Hunter and Brian Battie who led the Tigers to 144 rushing yards. Defensively, Eugene Asante had nine tackles and a fumble return for a touchdown.
Auburn Falls to Texas A&M 27-10
Early in the first quarter, the Texas A&M offense had success moving the ball on the Auburn defense. That was between the 20s. In the redzone, not so much. The Tigers defense gave up 84 yards on the first two drives, resulting in field goals for Aggies kicker Randy Bond. The Tigers were helped by some false start penalties, and perhaps a missed pass interference call on the second Aggies drive. Quarterback Connor Weigman started the game seven of ten on those two drives for 65 yards. The first drive was stalled due to a Caleb Wooden sack.
On the first Auburn drive it was a quick one going three and out, but the second one looked promising. They went five straight run plays with Jarquez Hunter and Damari Alston for 45 yards to get to the Aggies 30. Auburn caught a break on the following play when it appeared that Alston fumbled on a toss play. Edgerin Cooper returned it 63 yards, and the Aggies believed to be up 12-0 with 2:22 left in the first. After a review, it was shown that it was a forward pass and not a fumble. Auburn did not move any further after the play and was forced to punt.
There was less scoring in the second quarter than there was the first. The only point put on the board was a 53-yard field goal by Auburn kicker Alex McPherson. It was not for a lack of opportunities though. Auburn had good field position most of the quarter and started at the Aggies 44 on the last one of the half. The indecisiveness of quarterback Payton Thorne held back the Tigers. He was sacked four times in the half, and some of that was holding the ball too long.
He missed a couple of chances due to this, and other times overthrew open receivers. The biggest one was towards the middle of the quarter when he missed Jay Fair on a wheel route. Had the pass been accurate, Fair would have scored with no one around him. The run game was working with 66 yards on the ground. Hunter led the way with 51 yards.
The defense continued to do its job by limiting the Aggies’ offense in the second quarter. Auburn forced Texas A&M into three straight punts by Nik Constatinou. On second and 14 with 4:49 left, Jaylin Simpson got pressure and a hit on Weigman that seemed to result in an ankle injury. He did complete the pass to Evan Stewart for five yards but headed to the locker room according to the broadcast.
Max Johnson Airs it Out
To open the second half the Auburn offense would sputter once again. When the Aggies offense came onto the field Max Johnson was in for the injured Weigman. He would go three for three to lead Texas A&M to a touchdown to put them up 13-3 with 9:42 in the quarter. He connected with his brother Jake Johnson for 22 yards. The play before, Max Johnson scrambled for five yards on a third and four to give the Aggies a first down. Earlier in that drive the brothers connected for a 10-yard play.
Auburn then replaced Thorne with Robby Ashford, but the result was the same with another three and out. Max Johnson and the Aggies offense would strike again. In five plays they would find the endzone when Stewart caught a 37-yard touchdown pass despite being double covered. In two possessions Johnson completed all five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Texas A&M held a 20-3 lead with 6:22 in the third.
Auburn Falls to Texas A&M
Auburn finally found the endzone in the fourth, but it was the defense scoring the points. On first and 10 on the Tigers 33, Aggie running back Reuben Owens got the ball knocked out, and it landed into the hands of Eugene Asante. The Tigers leading tackler took it 67 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 20-10 with 12:16 left in the game.
Auburn forced a punt and started their next possession at their own 10. They found some success in the run game and some big plays from running back Brian Battie. He had a run of 24 yards to get the Tigers away from their own endzone. Like many other drives it stalled after crossing midfield, and a costly penalty knocked Auburn out of field goal range. That prevented them from making it a one score game. After a punt with 5:03 left, the Aggies put the game away.
On second down with 4:19 remaining, Amari Daniels avoided Auburn tacklers for a 79-yard run to put Texas A&M at the Auburn four-yard line. On the next play Le’veon Moss scored on a four-yard run with 3:59 left. That gave them a 27-10 lead. That was the final.
The Auburn Tigers will now return home next week and welcome the defending back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn will need to figure out how to fix the offense or it will be an even worse result than it was against Texas A&M.
Photo courtesy: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports