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Texas A&M Football

Learned, Loved, Loathed: Texas A&M 31, Auburn 20

December 6, 2020
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It’s already been established that Texas A&M has a strong running game, a stingy defense and an ability to make the clutch play on third down.

The No. 5 Aggies (7-1) offered a reminder of all those things on Saturday with a 31-20 victory over Auburn (5-4). The victory extended A&M’s winning streak to six straight and ended a three-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Even though the Aggies again relied heavily on their running game, defense and clutch play, they still revealed things not previously known.

Here’s a look at what was learned, loved and loathed in the Aggies latest victory.

What we learned

Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics
Spiller amassed 120 hard-earned yards himself, but when he was called upon to do the blocking, the Aggies’ feature back didn’t shy away.

Isaiah Spiller is a team guy: Not that this was ever in doubt, but Spiller demonstrated he won’t let ego get in the way of victory. Even though Spiller rushed for 120 yards, coach Jimbo Fisher used him as a fullback in the ‘I’ formation in front of tailback Ainias Smith when A&M was at the 4-yard line and looking to extend a 21-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Fisher explained he went to the ‘I’ with Spiller at fullback so Auburn would not change defensive personnel. He wanted the Tigers to stay in a nickel package with five defensive backs rather than add another defensive lineman. The plan worked, as the 190-pound Smith crossed the goal line with the 225-pound Spiller as his lead blocker. Some running backs as successful as Spiller, who’s third in the SEC with 897 rushing yards, might protest, but Spiller did not. Fisher praised Spiller’s mindset. “He went to fullback to block. That says a lot about him,” Fisher said.

Seth Small isn’t easily distracted: As Small lined up to attempt a victory-clinching 32-yard field goal, ESPN moved its overhead camera to get a better shot. On a sun-splashed afternoon, that caused the camera’s shadow to cross by holder Nik Constantinou just as Small made his approach. Small still converted the attempt, though it barely squeezed inside the right upright, to give the Aggies a 31-20 lead.

Caden Davis can tackle: The freshman kicker usually launches kickoffs deep into the end zone for touchbacks. In fact, 40 of his 46 kickoffs have not been returned. But after A&M took a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, Auburn’s Eli Stove almost broke away on the ensuing kickoff return. Davis stopped him at the 32-yard line to prevent a long return.

What I loved

Fourth-quarter dominance: The Aggies typically have played well in the fourth quarter but took it to another level against Auburn. They entered the final quarter trailing 20-14 and proceeded to outscore the Tigers 17-0. Kellen Mond threw a touchdown pass to Jalen Wydermyer, Ainias Smith ran for a touchdown, and Seth Small kicked a field goal. Meanwhile, the defense, which had been vulnerable at times through the first three quarters, shut down Auburn. The Aggies rolled up 158 yards in the quarter while limiting Auburn to 21.

Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics
Achane finished just one yard short of the century mark.

The one-two punch at running back: Sophomore Isaiah Spiller and freshman Devon Achane combined to rush for 219 yards on 29 carries for an average of 7.5 yards per attempt. Spiller was typically outstanding with 120 yards, marking the sixth game in which he’s exceeded 100 rushing yards. Achane came on in the second quarter to give Spiller a rest and rushed for 64 yards on a drive that unfortunately ended with a missed field goal attempt. Achane finished with 99 rushing yards on nine carries.

Third down success: A&M successfully converted on seven of 11 third-down opportunities. That included a 10-yard Mond touchdown pass to tight end Jalen Wydermyer on third-and-6. Mond also completed a 15-yard pass to Chase Lane on a third-and-11. That set up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Wydermyer on the next play. The Aggies converted two crucial third downs on their final drive for Small’s win-clinching field goal. Mond scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-8. He also completed a 6-yard pass to Smith on third-and-4.

What I loathed

Calling a pass on third down at the 1-yard line: The Aggies were looking to take a 14-3 lead midway in the second quarter. At that point in the game, A&M had gained positive yardage on 15 consecutive rushing plays. The Aggies had rushed for 64 yards on seven attempts in that particular drive. However, on third-and-goal, Fisher called for Mond to fake a handoff and roll to his right for a pass to Wydermyer. Mond was under pressure almost immediately and was sacked for a 10-yard loss. Small then missed a 28-yard field goal try.

Missed tackles in the Red Zone: Both of Auburn’s touchdowns could have — and should have — been prevented. Bobby Brown appeared to have Auburn quarterback Bo Nix wrapped up for a sack in the second quarter. Instead, Nix somehow escaped Brown’s grasp and scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Auburn running back Tank Bigsby seemed to be contained on a third-and-three at the A&M 10-yard line. First, Bigsby eluded defensive end Jeremiah Martin in the backfield. Then, he broke a tackle attempt by Leon O’Neal. He gained seven yards for a first down. Nix ran a touchdown on the next play.

Umpire getting in the way: Facing second-and-eight at their own 43-yard line in the third quarter, Mond tried to hit Hezekiah Jones on a crossing route. The pass was broken up by … the umpire? That’s right. Umpire Russ Pulley stepped right in the line of fire. Mond’s pass hit Pulley in the head. The Aggies would eventually punt.

Discussion from...

Learned, Loved, Loathed: Texas A&M 31, Auburn 20

9,708 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by Hey Nav
northaustinaggie87
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Thanks Olin, typically great stuff and much appreciated on a Sunday afternoon as I boycott state of Texas professional football.

That Caden Davis tackle was huge. Miss that and Stove either houses it or sets Auburn up with a much shorter field right after we had grabbed the momentum and the lead. Of course I would rather he have taken the suspense out of that play and kicked it out of the end zone.

Hey Nav
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AG
Quote:

The Aggies rolled up 158 yards in the quarter while limiting Auburn to 21.
Impressive finish.
TAMU74
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AG
I'm still concerned about our pass coverage.
Thank goodness Nix can miss wide-open receivers just like Mond.
Matsui
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TX_Aggie37
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TAMU74 said:

I'm still concerned about our pass coverage.
Thank goodness Nix can miss wide-open receivers just like Mond.

Was it necessary to bash Mond here? Do you just hate yourself that much?
Hey Nav
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Mond was 18/23 (isn't that a 78% completion rate? )

One pass hit the referee in the head. One pass could have been an INT.

He has thrown 2 INTs through the first 8 games. (239 attempts)

Not too shabby.
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