The last time the Auburn Tigers blocked a punt for a touchdown, the play turned into one for the Auburn books.
Tre Smith scored late with “The Flip” to down the Florida Gators in Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2006.
11 years later, Nick Ruffin blocked the punt of Texas A&M’s Shane Tripucka to shake the momentum inside Kyle Field. The Tigers outscored the Aggies 35-14 after Malik Miller recovered the block for the score.
“Coach talks everyday about doing your job—doing what’s asked of you and not trying to be a superhero," Ruffin said. "That’s really all I did. I told Coach Malzahn after the first one that I thought I could get there. I told him ‘Let me go get it again. I promise you I’ll get there.’ He put enough confidence in me and said ‘Alright. I’m going to give you a chance. Go get it.’ Thankfully, I got it.”
Thanks to offensive adjustments after a rugged start, No. 14 Auburn (7-2, 5-1 SEC) picked up a pivotal road win at Texas A&M on Saturday, 42-27.
"It was a very good win for our team. I'm very proud for our staff and our players," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "It's very important how you win and we overcame a lot of adversity against a very talented team."
Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC) got out to an early lead thanks to a successful swap at quarterback. Starter Kellen Mond was replaced by Week 1 starter Nick Starkel after Mond couldn’t produce consistent first downs.
Starkel proceeded to lead the Aggies to back-to-back scoring drives to take a 13-7 lead.
Texas native Jarrett Stidham roared the Tigers offense back to life in a 53-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton with 1:36 remaining in the half. The blocked punt score gifted Auburn a 21-13 lead at the half.
Auburn scored a pair of red zone touchdowns early in the third to push the lead to a gaping 35-13.
Starkel and the offense responded with a retort of their own: a 62-yard touchdown strike on a slant from Starkel to receiver Damion Ratley.
After blocking the second Daniel Carlson field goal of the day gave the Aggies a short field, Starkel and the offense went for it on 4th and goal from the Auburn 4-yard line. Starkel’s pass fell short to the turf, slicing the energy in College Station to pieces.
Stidham and company iced the game on the following drive, capping a 13-play drive, 96-yard drive with a jet sweep touchdown to Eli Stove on 3rd and goal. The march took 8:17 off the fourth quarter clock.
The Stephenville, Texas product Stidham had one of his more productive contests of the year, passing for 267 yards on 20-of-27 attempts.
“It was great. Obviously, I’ve had this one circled for a while," Stidham said. "Any time I get to come back home, being so far away, it’s exciting for me, and my family and friends. It was great. Ultimately, we got the win and that’s the most important thing.”
Darius Slayton has been Stidham’s favorite target as of late. The junior added 99 yards and a touchdown Saturday in Aggieland.
Slayton has six catches for 245 yards and two scores in the pair of games since the dismissal of Kyle Davis.
Kerryon Johnson had another 100-yard performance in the absence of running-mate Kamryn Pettway. The SEC’s leading rusher scored his 15th touchdown of the year on the ground in the third quarter to complement his 145-yard showing.
The Tigers will welcome No. 1 Georgia to The Plains next Saturday in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. With Auburn’s win over the Aggies, the home team has still never won in the SEC West series’ history.