Jeremy Johnson (above) started when Sean White was unable to play due to injury.
College Station, Tex.--Gus Malzahn said he wanted to see his Auburn football team play a complete game and it finally happened on Saturday night as the Tigers upset 24th-ranked Texas A&M 26-10.
With Jeremy Johnson taking over at quarterback after being benched following game three, the junior had by far his best performance of the season as the offense racked up 443 total yards and did not have a turnover when Sean White was unable to play due to injury.
The defense allowed the Aggies just 10 first downs and 303 yards while taking away the football three times on interceptions by Carlton Davis, Justin Garrett and Blake Countess.
The special teams play held strong and Daniel Carlson made four field goals as his Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
“Tonight was a true team win,” Malzahn said. “I felt like we played good in all three phases really for the first time all year.”
Malzahn added, “I am excited for our players. We played our best game tonight.”
Johnson completed 13-17 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown on a night the Tigers were heavily ground-oriented with 52 carries for 311 yards. Jovon Robinson was the workhorse on the ground, netting 159 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown.
“We wanted to run the football 50 times,” Malzahn said. “Jovon Robinson got off to a very good start. He really ran through some tackles and broke some things. Our line did a good job of opening some things up.”
The coach added, “We had a couple of explosive pass plays that led to some points, too.”
Malzahn credited his offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, with doing a good job of calling plays, noting he let his assistant take the lead role against the Aggies.
The coach also had praise for Johnson. “I thought Jeremy did a very good job. I am very proud of him to come in here and get the victory on the road. He did a phenomenal job running the offense.”
Malzahn noted that he hoped Sean White could have played if needed, but in warmups the sophomore quarterback couldn’t go so Jonathan Wallace was the backup QB, but wasn’t needed.
“Thursday, Coach called me in his office and told me I was ready and I was preparing, I was hungry, which I was,” Jeremy Johnson said. “After that I got myself mentally ready for this game.”
Johnson noted that playing at Kyle Field was a great experience and said. “I am going to cherish this win and we are going to move forward from here.”
Cassanova McKinzy tackles Christian Kirk for lost yardage.
The Aggies won the toss and took the football. That paid off with a quick 3-0 lead after they drove 29 yards on nine plays to score on a 50-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet.
Auburn responded with a more impressive drive, moving 75 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-3 lead. The touchdown came on a first down pass in the flat to Marcus Davis, who raced into the end zone from nine yards out.
The defense made a big play for the Tigers on the second Texas A&M?possession as freshman cornerback Carlton Davis made his third interception of the season. With the ball in the end zone, the Tigers took over at their 20-yard line and drove 80 yards on nine plays.
Jovon Robinson scored on a short run up the middle after originally being ruled down just in front of the goal line, but the play was quickly overturned on a replay review. That one-yard run put the Tigers up 14-3 with 13:40 left in the second quarter.
The Aggies had another first half scoring threat thwarted by an interception. Justin Thornton made an interception at the one-yard line, which he returned to the 11.
Another big defensive play by the Tigers on fourth and less than one with 2:05 to play thwarted the Aggies, who failed to move the chains on a quarterback keeper by Tyler Murray that was stopped by Cassanova McKinzy.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn gained 185 yards on 31 plays with 128 yards coming on 21 runs. Jovon Robinson ran the ball 15 times for 107 yards. Jeremy Johnson completed 9-10 passes for 57 yards.
Jovon Robinson's running was a key to the victory.
The Tigers took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and drove 57 yards on seven plays before settling on a 35-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson to stretch the lead to 17-3.
Carlson hit a 30-yard field goal with 7:56 left in the third quarter before the Aggies cut the margin to 20-10 by driving 83 yards on 14 plays. Speedy Noil caught a two-yard pass for the score with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
Auburn responded by driving 72 yards to set up a 21-yard field goal with 13:39 to play. The Tigers added an insurance field goal with 6:33 to cap a drive that covered 60 yards on 10 plays.
“We knew we had a great game plan and we came out and executed it,” said senior linebacker Kris Frost, was in on nine tackles, one behind team leader Rudy Ford. “The offense did a great job, not just putting points on the board, but the time they kept us off the field.”
The time of possession was exactly even at halftime, but Auburn finished with almost eight more minutes of possession at the end of the damp, windy night.
“We are playing for pride right now,” Frost said. “We are not worried about a bowl game. We are not worried about what teams we beat or don’t beat. We are just focused on just playing for pride and just going out and beating SEC teams.”