After Auburn’s record-setting victory over Arkansas State, most thought the Tigers had solved their offensive issues. After the team’s demoralizing 29-16 loss to Texas A&M, it’s clear that Gus Malzahn’s problem is much more complex. Auburn’s offense struggled to find a rhythm, wasting another phenomenal performance from Kevin Steele’s defense.
Sean White looked sharp early on, with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson leading the rushing attack. Auburn had a nine play, 80 yard drive early in the first quarter that pushed the Tigers out to a 7-0 lead. From there, Aggies defensive coordinator John Chavis made the necessary adjustments and shut down Auburn’s offense for the rest of the game. Auburn went scoreless on their next five drives before closing out the first half with a field goal from Daniel Carlson.
Any attempt at halftime adjustments from the offense were unsuccessful, as Auburn did more of the same as the second half got underway. Auburn punted on their first four possessions of the second half before Malzahn made the call to make a change at quarterback. The Auburn head coach pulled Sean White and inserted John Franklin III, the athletically gifted transfer from East Mississippi Community College.
Franklin gave a spark to the offense, driving them down the field twice in the fourth quarter, with one of those drives resulting in a touchdown. But Franklin also made a key error late in the game, stepping out of bounds short of the marker on fourth down to end the game. Malzahn was noncommittal about the change at quarterback and brushed off questions in his postgame press conference about the starter next week against LSU.
“We will talk about things next week,” Malzahn said.
If there’s one positive to take from the loss, it’s the continued improvement of the Auburn defense. Barring one breakaway run once the game was already out of reach, the defensive unit did a fantastic job of containing a talented offense. Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight was harassed all game and Auburn was able to get off the field on third down. Texas A&M was held to just 2 of 15 on third down. The Tigers were also able to lock down their defense in the red zone. Texas A&M was forced to settle for five field goals from their freshman kicker. Malzahn knows his defense did all it could to get the victory.
“That was an extremely tough loss tonight,” Malzahn said. “The defense played very good and gave the offense a lot of opportunities, and the offense just couldn’t seize the moment.”
Auburn has an even tougher test this weekend as LSU comes into town. Les Miles and his Tigers survived a fierce comeback attempt from Mississippi State to move to 2-1 on the season. If Malzahn drops another SEC home game and moves to 1-3 on the season, it will only make his seat even hotter.