After No. 19 Texas A&M (6-3, 3-3 SEC) converted a 50-yard field goal to take an early three-point lead against Auburn (5-4, 2-4) on Saturday, the Tigers quickly erased it and took control en route to a convincing 26-10 victory.
Auburn forced three timely turnovers and used a balanced offensive attack to control the game.
Here is the Auburn report card:
Where was this in the first three games of the season?
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson stepped in for the injured Sean White and completed 13-of-17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Johnson was benched after a 45-21 loss to LSU on Sept. 19, but it was hard to believe that after watching Johnson run the offense Saturday. He began the game with nine completions in a row, as Auburn built an early lead.
A successful rushing attack aided Johnson, as the Tigers racked up 331 rushing yards on 52 attempts. Junior-college transfer Jovon Robinson got most of the work, carrying the ball 27 times for 159 yards and a touchdown.
The only negative for the offense came in the red zone where it came away with just two touchdowns in six trips. Kicker Daniel Carlson backed the offense up with four field goals and with the way the defense played, that was all Auburn needed.
The Tigers entered Saturday’s game allowing the most yards per game (446.5) in the SEC, but that average is going to improve after an impressive showing against Texas A&M.
Auburn limited the Aggies to 303 total yards of offense and forced freshman quarterback Kyler Murray into three interceptions. Murray finished the game 13-of-23 passing for 105 yards.
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp designed a good game plan to keep the speedy quarterback in the pocket. Murray ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in his first career start against South Carolina on Oct. 31, but Auburn held him to 37 yards on eight attempts.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Carlson continued his impressive season adding four more field goals to put his season total at 21. The sophomore is now 18-of-21 on the season.
The Tigers didn’t allow dangerous returners Speedy Noil or Christian Kirk to have an impact in the return game.
Muschamp devised a game plan to keep Murray in the pocket and it almost worked to perfection. Auburn contained Murray and still found a way to put pressure on the young quarterback. That pressure turned into mistakes, which the Tigers capitalized on.
The decision to feature Robinson in the backfield for the second consecutive week paid off. Auburn ran the ball 52 times, but the play calling mixed in enough passes (17) to keep the Aggies’ defense off balance.
The tempo of the offense neutralized a Texas A&M pass rush that entered the game second in the SEC with 26 sacks. The Aggies had zero sacks on Saturday.
The Tigers missed out on a chance to build a larger lead by converting touchdowns instead of field goals on multiple red zone trips, but they were able to move the ball effectively throughout game.
This was Auburn’s most complete performance of the season. The Tigers were able to avoid giving up the big plays that plagued the defense in previous weeks.
The offense was able to build an early lead and the defense did the rest. Carlson’s accuracy continues to lead a special teams unit that has been the most consistent facet of the team this season.
Auburn is now one win away from bowl eligibility with three games remaining. Have the Tigers turned a corner?
We’ll see when Georgia travels to The Plains to take on Auburn this Saturday.