One week after a promising debut from Kyler Murray in a 35-28 win and four days after the CFP Committee gave the Aggies the benefit of the doubt by ranking them number nineteen in the rankings, Texas A&M was beaten at home by the 4-4 Auburn Tigers. The same Tigers who are best known this season for underperforming.
Yesterday it was the Aggies who left us shaking our heads with three interceptions, 10 points scored, and over 300 yards on the ground surrendered. And, while the game was played at Kyle
Nov 7, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6) yells from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Field, it seemed as if Auburn was the home team, as Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson leapt up and down and celebrated after every good play and Auburn in general played with more energy than this A&M team.
Somewhere in the month of October the Aggies lost their mojo. If Kyler Murray was the one who brought the spark, it lost it’s luster with each interception and was stamped out completely when the freshman left the game with a concussion. The team that overcame Dak Prescott, the Arkansas running attack, and Arizona State’s overflowing quiver of exotic blitzes were unable to slow down Auburn’s offense or protect Jake Hubenak against simple stunts in the fourth quarter.
Cliche as it sounds, most of the credit does belong to Guz Malzahn and Auburn’s coaching staff. Playing without Sean White, who kept the Tigers close with Ole Miss and Arkansas, Auburn was forced to play Jeremy Johnson (the same guy who threw two interceptions to Jacksonville State). Malzahn neutralized Johnson’s inability to throw the ball down the field by mixing in screens and
Nov 7, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Jovon Robinson (29) carries the ball as Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Daeshon Hall (10) defends during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
bubbles that stretched the defense and then punished them up the middle with the run game. Auburn’s offense never let their quarterback keep it long enough for Myles Garrett or Daeshon Hall to make a play, and the pair of stud defensive ends were kept off their guard by constant misdirections. The entire defense was fooled by a trick play where Auburn handed the ball quickly to a receiver hidden behind the offensive line and darted 28 yards for a first down on 1st and 25.
Despite all of that, A&M’s offense did not give up a touchdown past the first quarter, and allowed just 26 points, which should be more than enough to beat Auburn. The offense just couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Tra Carson went for over 100 yards and ripped off a few long gains, and the Aggies were able to convert several third downs by handing off to the senior back. Other than that, it is hard to find positive takeaways from the way Spavital’s group played.
Kyler Murray’s first interception that was a 50-50 ball to Damion Ratley. It was excusable in my mind as it shows the trust Murray had in his pass-catcher, but it was a pass where Ratley would have needed to make a perfect play on the ball, and the Auburn defensive back made the play
Nov 7, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Auburn defense celebrates after an interception
instead. The other two interceptions were thrown right to the defense as the freshman was desperately trying to get things going. Murray was effective on the ground, but a scramble in the third quarter led to an injury which forced him out of the game. Coming off the bench, Jake Hubenak threw a nice corner fade to Speedy Noil, but other than that was just 4/11 for 30 yards.
The most frustrating fact of A&M’s quarterback dilemma is that all three guys have had chances to claim the job. It’s well-documented how Kyle Allen lost it, Kyler has had one great and one poor start, and you have to think if Jake Hubenak made been able to move the ball against Ole Miss or Auburn (without free first downs from penalties) he would earn at least a shot. My guess is that Murray starts next week against the Catamounts because he was in the game until the injury.
Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones made plays, and Speedy Noil had the kind of game we’ve been waiting all season for. RSJ had another huge block that was initially flagged as targeting, but was overturned after replay. Seals-Jones has been the one consistent bright spot of the Aggie
Nov 7, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Speedy Noil (2) carries the ball as Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) defends during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
offense the last four weeks, and deserves a bunch of credit. Christian Kirk was bottled up by an athletic linebacking corps, and ran for just four yards on two jet sweeps.
The play calling left a lot to be desired, but it is also hard to say how well the offense would have done if Spavital had better execution from his freshman quarterback. I’m guessing it would have been enough to win the game.
Any way you slice it, A&M’s offense needs a drastic change in order to reach their potential. Whether that is change of scheming, personnel or coaching, I don’t know; but these are the kinds of things Texas A&M pays Kevin Sumlin $5 million to figure out. The Aggies will get another week to sort things out against Western Carolina next week, where the Ags honestly just need to win, no matter how sloppily.
Any way you slice it, A&M’s offense needs a drastic change in order to reach their potential. Whether that is change of scheming, personnel or coaching, I don’t know; but these are the kinds of things Texas A&M pays Kevin Sumlin $5 million to figure out.
The Aggies close their season with road trips to Vanderbilt and LSU. The Commodores defense has looked quietly very effective, which could pose problems for a struggling Aggie offense. LSU was beaten soundly by Alabama, but still fields a good defense and Leonard Fournette. The Tigers are also 3-0 against the Aggies since 2012.
The Aggies are now 6-3 with a 3-3 record in the SEC.