John Franklin (above) got his chance to run the offense in the fourth quarter.
Auburn, Ala.--For much of the night Auburn's defense performed well, but finally cracked in the fourth quarter under the weight of Texas A&M’s offense and a disappointing performance by their Tiger teammates on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
As a result Auburn dropped its SEC football opener, 29-16, on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium to fall to 1-2 for the season. The Aggies, who are ranked 17th nationally, improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in league play.
“I really thought the third quarter was probably the key to the game,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “It was a dogfight and then in the third quarter the defense played very good, gave the offense a lot of opportunities and the offense just couldn’t seize the moment.”
The Tigers finished the game with 399 total yards, but just 35 of them came in the third quarter.
Auburn went into that period trailing 16-10 with the Aggies getting possession to start the period. Auburn’s defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs before the Aggies got the only points of the period with a 31-yard field goal with 1:52 left to make the score 19-10.
The Tigers, who scored a touchdown on their second possession of the night, couldn’t manage another one unitl 2:59 was left in the game, which was way too little, way too late.
Malzahn said the offense hurt itself with negative plays and had praise for the defense, which allowed Texas A&M to convert just 2-15 third down plays.
“I thought our defense played well,” the coach said. “I think they gave up a run late in the game. They have a lot of skill guys and that quarterback (Trevor) Knight is a good runner and passer.
“Overall, it was a tough loss,” Malzahn added. “We have got to find a way to get better. We weren’t consistent enough on offense to win the game.”
Malzahn pulled starting quarterback Sean White in the fourth quarter after he hit 18-27 passes for 126 yards. However, the longest pass play went for just 18 yards as the Tigers played conservatively when it came to throwing the ball down the field. Most of White’s passes were short ones.
“I just felt like we needed a shot in the arm,” Malzahn said of his decision to bring Franklin into the game. The junior completed 4-8 passes for 37 yards and ran the ball nine times for 47 yards.
Although he was on the sideline for the final touchdown as Kerryon Johnson scored on a two-yard run from the wildcat formation with just under three minutes to play, the backup QB was on the field for most of the drive that covered 66 plays in 11 yards.
“We gave John Franklin a shot and he did a good job moving the football,” Malzahn said. “He got the chains moving.”
With LSU on next week’s schedule the head coach said the Tigers will sort out the quarterback situation as they “figure out a way to get better.”
The first quarter went relatively well for the home team. The Tigers scored first by moving 80 yards on nine plays on their second possession.
A screen pass to Ryan Davis that covered 15 yards to the goal line set up a touchdown run on the next play by Kamryn Pettway, who rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries.
Sophomore Kamryn Pettway scores for the Tigers.
After the teams exchanged punts the Aggies scored on a 46-yard field goal by Daniel LaCamera with 1:42 left in the period. He was a perfect 5-5on the night.
The second quarter did not go well for the Tigers, who struggled to move the ball and helped the Aggies score a field goal with a fumble by Ryan Davis.
The visitors took the lead at the 12:07 mark on a five-yard pass from Trevor Knight to Josh Reynolds to cap a quick strike drive that covered 92 yards in just six plays.
Two more field goals by LaCamera of 35 and 32 yards put the Aggies on top 16-7 with 1:52 left in the half.
Auburn then managed to move the ball 55 yards on eight plays before intermission. With seven seconds on the clock the Tigers elected to go for a 37-yard field goal that Daniel Carlson nailed to cut the lead to 16-10 at the break.
Halftime Numbers: The Aggies led in total yards 253-200. A&M rushed for 66 yards on 12 carries while Auburn rushed for 105 yards on 25 carries. The Aggies hit 14-21 passes for 187 yards while Auburn was 12-16 for 95 yards.
Neither team had a big offensive third quarter, but the Aggies were able to put together a scoring drive to stretch the lead to 19-10 with 1:03 left in the period. The key play was a fourth down and three pass over the middle to Christian Kirk for nine yards to the Auburn 28.
In the fourth quarter the Aggies stretched the lead to 22-10 with a 26-yard field goal and made the margin too much to overcome after Trayveon Williams raced 89 yards for a score with 6:52 to play.
Auburn cut the final margin to 29-16 as Kerryon Johnson scored on a two-yard keeper and Franklin’s pass in the flats on the two-point conversion was incomplete.
Trevor Knight’s scrambling helped him compete 20-40 passes for the Aggies for 247 yards and one score. He added 42 yards on 12 carries. The transfer from Oklahoma credited his teammates on the other side of the ball for the victory. “There is no doubt about it that our defense is playing well right now,”?he said.
Coach Kevin Sumlin said his defense “made some adjustments” that helped the Aggies contain the Tigers. “Football is one of those game where you have to figure out what people are trying to do you,”?he said.
“I think our defensive staff did great, in particular coming out of halftime,” Sumlin added.
Auburn senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who had a sack for the Tigers, said the loss wasn’t just on the offense. “Everybody shared responsibility,” he said. “We are a team and we are here to help each other.”
Adams said there is nothing the Tigers can do about their second loss of the season as they turn their attention to LSU. We are going to practice tomorrow, make our corrections and go on to the next game,” he said.
Asked if the team has enough character to bounce back and play well vs. LSU, Adams said, “I do. If not that is on the leaders so we are going to have to do that tomorrow and every day next week.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: The Aggies sacked Auburn quarterbacks four times and made 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Worth Noting, Part 2: The trend of the road team winning in this series continued as the Aggies improved to 3-0 in games at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Stat of the Game: On Auburn’s 15 possessions the Tigers had 31 or fewer yards 11 times.