Quarterback Bo Nix and the No. 13 Tigers were soaring high after last Saturday’s win over Ole Miss. The Auburn offense was clicking on all cylinders, and was coming into Texas A&M controlling its own destiny in the SEC West.
That all changed Saturday in College Station, in a 20–3 loss to the No. 14 Aggies.
“We didn’t play well enough to win today,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “A&M’s a good team. There’s things that we have to go back and focus on, and the same things that we talk about every single week.”
Nix and the offense were unable to move the ball in Saturday’s loss, only crossing midfield three times and scoring once on a 32-yard field goal. The Tigers had been successful in recent weeks in the red zone, but only scored once on their two red zone appearances. The other ended in a missed 33-yard field goal.
“We just didn’t execute,” tight end John Samuel Shenker said. “A few dropped balls and whatnot; it just wasn’t a clean game for our offense.”
The first half was an all-out slugfest, with both teams only scoring a field goal. The Tigers were unable to get the ball moving outside of their lone scoring drive, only gaining 38 total yards on the five non-scoring drives in the first half.
“I just don't think that we found that play, that momentum, that spark to really get us – on the offensive side, particularly – to get us going,” Harsin said.”
Going into halftime tied at three apiece, the Tigers had some momentum at the beginning of the third quarter. Nix had driven the offense down the field, and was faced with a third-and-goal from the Texas A&M 16-yard line. Nix threw up a perfect pass to receiver Kobe Hudson, but the receiver lost the ball in the air and fell incomplete. Kicker Anders Carlson trotted on for a 33-yard attempt, but missed the kick.
“It's always those four-to-six plays that happen in the game that change the momentum of the game,” Harsin said on the missed field goal. “And ones that you don't know where they're going to happen, you just got to be ready for them.”
All was lost after the missed field goal, as the Aggies drove down to kick field goals on back-to-back drives. Down by six, Nix fumbled and the Aggie defense returned the turnover for a touchdown. It was Nix’s first turnover of the night, later adding an interception on the final drive of the game.
“When we fumble the ball, and they're able to score on defense, that's a big play,” Harsin said. “You know, that's a momentum changer right there, and you got to be able to recover from that.”
Harsin’s Tigers were unable to recover from that play, and did not even get past their own 35-yard line. All in all, the Tigers scored three points on 12 offensive drives. On many of those drives, Auburn was faced with third-and-longs.
“Yeah, that was a big problem early,” said Shenker on the Tigers facing third-and-longs throughout the game. “That was our success in the past few weeks, is we play in front of the chains and you get to third-and-short and you know we got two running backs, three running backs really, that can power through for a few yards.
“So, when you back it up like that you give the (defensive coordinator) a lot of options for certain blitzes that he might want to use and especially when you go up against a talented defense.”
The Auburn offense finished with 226 total yards of offense on Saturday against the Aggies. Nix completed 20-of-41 passes for 153 yards, and the Tigers had 73 yards on the ground.