As a sports writer sometimes you project the outcome of the game and write your article thinking it’s over based on the way the losing team has played. Just when I thought I had seen it all the Auburn Tigers found some magical dust and scored in a flash 2 plays 58 yards in .23 seconds to stun Texas A&M 28-24 forcing me to rewrite my story.
Despite being beaten in all phases, Auburn won. I am still trying to wrap my head around this one. They completely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball limiting Auburn to 19 rushing yards while demoralizing them by running right up the gut of the defense gaining 201 rushing yards. They forced Auburn to go 3-and-out six times. They ran 79 plays Auburn had only 51 while gutting out a total of 278 offensive yards. Meanwhile, Texas A&M had 421 total yards. With 10:27 remaining in the third quarter the Aggies were winning 24-14. I know what you are thinking there was a lot of football to be played.
However you don’t understand, Auburn played with effort, but they dropped passes, muffed a kick, and when they did something good they fumbled the ball out of bounds yet they remained relevant. Give Gus Malzhan credit somehow someway this team displayed the heart of a champion. They are all but eliminated from the SEC Championship, and that snowball would have to melt in that hot place for them to get near the National Championship.
After the Tennessee loss, Malzhan said, “we just have to finish right.” Perhaps this is what he meant. He also spoke of character. All coaches say that but what does it mean? They say character is what one would do if you wouldn’t get caught and if no one would find out. Whatever football character is today I witnessed it. This team played for who they are, win, lose or draw they are the proud Auburn Tigers, and the 85,949 tickets sold appreciated their effort. Surely the few fans that exited early were pleasantly surprised when they saw the final score.
“We’ve been talking all week about just playing Auburn football, the fight and the character and everything that goes with it. That’s really what defined the win for me today. A lot of times how you win can help you moving forward. That will definitely give us momentum. Obviously, we have some things we need to work on. I’m really proud of our players” said Gus Malzhan.
The game featured some razzle-dazzle plays Auburn scored on a reverse pass when WR Ryan Davis connected with Sal Canella for a 20-yard touchdown. Not to be outdone Jimbo Fisher rolled his quarterback Kelly Mond right while sneaking J Sternberger underneath the linebacker on the back side, it worked to perfection as he darted down the sideline for a 42 yards pass. After a pass interference T. Williams dove in from the 1-yard line for his second touchdown of the day. I thought that was a shot to the heart the score was 24-14.
Ryan Davis in an effort to try to make something positive happen fielded a punt inside the 5-yard line and was dropped right there. Auburn started the fourth quarter buried at their 1-yard line staring down the barrel of 99 yards and a ten point deficit. The A&M Defense went for the jugular another 3 –and-out to complete their fourth of the day and two in a row.
As bad as they played with 5:14 remaining in the 4th quarter Chandler Cox barreled into the end zone scoring from the 1-yard line to make the score 24-21 the Tigers were only down by three.
It became a battle against the clock 2:19 was remaining, and the Aggies had the ball DT Derrick Brown sacked Kelly Mond for a 7-yard loss, the ball was fumbled, but they maintained possession K Sutherland desperately got on it, but they were forced to punt. Christian Tutt kept hope alive returning it 28 yards; Auburn was near midfield at their 42-yard line.
On cue, lightning struck in the form of Ryan Davis catching a pass across the middle, somehow he willed himself 47 yards shaking, baking, and spinning to avoid five or six defenders before he ran out of bounds. Jarrett Stidham rose to the occasion throwing the game-winning 11-yard touchdown to a leaping Seth Williams with 1:41 remaining in the game.
Dontavius Russell: On what this win means after coming back from being down in the fourth quarter…
“We talk about having that fight as Auburn Tigers. That’s what we did. We came out and we fought. Whenever you’re able to come out and fight and win after the way we did, that’s what we’re happy about. It’s the fact that we were able to come back the way that we did.” Just like that he who giveth took it away.
Befittingly the game ended with drama a desperation hail mary pass by Kellen Mond was caught out of bounds at the goal line. After further review, one second remained to provide another opportunity the Auburn fans couldn’t believe it all they could do was hold their breath.
Kellen Mond tried to buy a little time for his receivers to get in the end zone but Nick Coe spoiled their last desperation by sacking him for a 9-yard loss.
The character of the Auburn Tigers willed them to victory.