After trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter in what was another must-win game for Gus Malzahn, Auburn stormed back in the final minutes to upset No. 20 Texas A&M 28-24 in comeback fashion to improve to 6-3 on the season, and reclaim bowl eligibility.
Here are the grades for Saturday’s win.
Something about facing Texas A&M seems to always bring out the best in Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
The Texas native had arguably his best performance of the season, going 18-of-29 for 239 yards passing and two touchdowns Saturday afternoon inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Stidham, despite having no help from the running attack, torched the Aggies’ secondary and helped lead the Tigers down the field in the final minutes to complete the 28-24 upset.
Pro Football Focus gave Stidham a passer rating of 120.1, with an adjusted completion rate of 76.9 percent, which was one of top quarterback grades of the week.
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There isn’t much to say. Apart from the running game looking nonexistent, it didn’t look as if Malzahn was trying to establish it early.
The Tigers were stuffed at the line all afternoon, managing to rush for just 19 yards. All of the blame can’t be on the backs however — the offensive line couldn’t hold blocks or create holes for whoever was getting the ball. JaTarvious Whitlow, Malik Miller and Shaun Shivers all struggled. Whitlow finished with eight carries for 16 yards and one reception for 15 yards while Shivers finished with two carries for 11 yards.
The Tigers passing attack finally broke out Saturday afternoon. After a much-needed bye week, Auburn’s wide receivers looked like what everyone expected from them coming into the year.
Veterans stepped up to put the Tigers in a position to win, and a freshman sealed the comeback. Ryan Davis, along with having a 20-yard touchdown pass to Sal Cannella in the first half, finished with five receptions for 75 yards and Darius Slayton led the team with eight receptions for 107 yards.
Freshman standout Seth Williams finished with only two receptions for 22 yards but had two touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner in the final minutes.
The offensive line was terrible in run blocking, but showed improvement in pass protection. Stidham was given time to throw most times he dropped back in the pocket and was only sacked three times.
But the Tigers will ask even more of their young unit next week, traveling to Athens, Georgia to face the toughest defensive line they have seen all year.
FRONT SEVEN: C
It wasn’t a great afternoon for the front seven, but they got stops when it mattered the most. The Tigers, led by Nick Coe and Derrick Brown, sacked Kellen Mond five times and forced two key turnovers late to put them in a position for a comeback.
However, they were gashed all day by Trayveon Williams and gave up 201 rushing yards, which will need to be drastically improved if Auburn wants to be competitive at Georgia next week.
The Auburn secondary bent Saturday, but they did not break. With just over seven minutes left in the game, trailing by double-digits, corner Noah Igbinoghene intercepted Mond’s pass on the sideline which would eventually lead to a 71-yard touchdown drive to pull the game within three.
Before the fourth quarter however, the secondary looked loose, giving up 259 passing yards and allowing 28 first downs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The play of the game for this unit was Christian Tutt’s punt return on Auburn’s final drive of the game. After holding Texas A&M to three-and-out, the Tigers used some trickery get an extra 28 yards on the return and give themselves a shorter field to work with in the two minute drill.
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