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The Battalion

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Tensions and turmoil: Aggies fall 13-10 to the Tigers

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Photo by Ishika Samant

Rushing the Tigers, senior Aaron Hansford and junior Samuel Matthews tackle the offense.

Cold air and chilling winds led to more than just frosty audiences, as Texas A&M’s offense was iced out by Auburn with a frozen run game and a list of player injuries in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12. The Tigers walked away from the match with a win to bring them up to a 4-6 record and continue their fight for a bowl game, whereas the Aggies fell to 3-7 and had their bowl game contention ripped out from under them.
“We could not get in rhythm,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Whether we dropped the ball, whether we had a sack, whether we had a penalty, whether we had a negative run, we just could not get above the sticks and keep going.”
To open both the game and the first quarter of play, the Aggies kickstarted their continuous struggle to get set on the line with their first false start. A&M was shut down when Auburn forced a three-and-out, but a flag for running into the kicker extended the Aggies’ drive. However, despite the opportunity presented, A&M fell victim to another three-and-out and the harsh winds as a lob from freshman quarterback Conner Weigman couldn’t find its target. The ship sunk deeper for the maroon and white when, on the first play of the Tiger drive, redshirt freshman quarterback Robby Ashford dodged tackles and tip-toed down the sideline to pick up a first down and more. Ultimately, the Aggie defense managed to contain the Tigers and get them off the field.
After another A&M three-and-out, Auburn took the field again and almost immediately junior running back Tank Bigsby ran 39 yards for an explosive play to bring the Tigers into scoring position — a position they quickly capitalized on with a 16-yard pass to junior wide receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson to add 6 to the board.
The A&M offense continued to struggle as the absence of junior running back Devon Achane left a hole in the Aggie run game that was filled with freshman running back Le’Veon Moss. Weigman also attempted to help cover the groundwork, using his legs to gain a first down and continue A&M’s drive as the seconds ticked out for the first quarter. However, the Fightin’ Farmers’ battle with injury continued as senior tight end Max Wright left the field with an injury. With freshman tight end Donovan Green out, another hole was opened in the A&M offense.
Another straw was added to the camel’s back for the maroon and white when Weigman threw what was almost his first career interception to junior cornerback D.J. James. Aggie fans breathed a sigh of relief when it was determined an incomplete pass.
On defense once more, the Aggies struggled to contain the Tiger run game as four rushing attempts gained them 48 yards and three first downs, but once more, the A&M defense rallied to force Auburn to punt. A glimpse of light appeared for the Aggies with a 27-yard pass from Weigman to senior wide receiver Jalen Preston, but the maroon and white remained unable to initiate a run game.
The Tiger crowd quieted after back-to-back plays — a 25-yard pass to junior wide receiver Devin Price and a 9-yard run by Weigman — opened up the field. However, the 13-play drive ended with a punt from junior punter Nik Constantinou. The Aggie defense found some footing, narrowly missing a safety on the first play of the Auburn drive, but a personal foul from sophomore defensive lineman Shemar Turner garnered a personal foul for unnecessary roughness after Turner shoved Ashford after the play was over. The foul moved the Tigers forward 15 yards, gave them the first down and cranked up the tension between the two teams.
The injury bug continued as freshman defensive lineman Walter Nolen was pulled from the field just before the end of the second quarter. Junior defensive back Antonio Johnson stamped his return to play with a sack on Ashford for a loss of 4 yards, and as the clock ran out, a hail mary from Auburn ended in an interception by senior defensive back Demani Richardson. Heading into halftime, the Tigers led 7-0. A&M held a secure game in the air but struggled on the ground, and interim Auburn head coach Carnell Williams promised to return with a more aggressive offense.
Coming out of the gate, despite Auburn plans to present an aggressive offensive attack right out of the gate, A&M almost managed to force a three-and-out, but a pass interference on Johnson extended the Tigers’ drive. Despite the opportunity presented to Auburn, the drive ended with a 54-yard field goal attempt by the Tigers that launched wide right to keep the score 7-0.
“Fixing communication,” junior defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson said when asked about the adjustments in the second half. “We gotta be on the same page across the board, from the front end to the back end.”
A forceful Tiger defensive line and a shaky Aggie offensive line led to a consistently collapsing pocket around Weigman and another A&M three-and-out. A 22-yard gain by Auburn sophomore running back Jarquez Hunter was canceled out by a holding penalty and revived the A&M defense to force another punt.
A fumble by the Tigers with five and a half minutes left in the third quarter gave the Aggies an opportunity to even the scoreboard, but the offensive line continued to struggle against Auburn’s rush and Weigman was forced into three incomplete throws to immediately pull A&M off the field. Breaths were held by both sides as a punt, that to Auburn’s eyes was touched, was almost turned over, but ultimately ruled in A&M’s favor. Once again, the Aggies faced third-and-11, this time with their backs to the Tigers’ endzone, and pressure from Auburn forced Weigman to throw to avoid a safety.
A 25-yard punt against the wind gave Auburn a short field with under three minutes in the third quarter. A screenplay on third-and-13 left the Tigers at fourth-and-2, where they elected to take the 3 points to make it 10-0 and a two-score game. As the lights went out for the fourth quarter, the Tigers were jumping up and down in excitement as the maroon and white sideline looked stoic and dejected from a distance.
The fourth quarter started with the same momentum as the rest of the game: all Auburn Tigers. The first play, already on third down, continued the saga of the Aggie offensive line collapsing and Weigman struggling to adapt, only this play ended in a fumble that Weigman recovered off a lucky bounce. However, in a continuation of the emotional rollercoaster for both teams, Ashford’s pass was tipped by Jackson and intercepted by sophomore linebacker Edgerrin Cooper.
In what seemed to turn the injury bug into a curse, freshman wide receiver Evan Stewart was helped off the field after a potential hit to the head, but as a silver lining to the maroon and white, a field goal from sophomore kicker Randy Bond added 3 to their score. As the Tigers returned to offense, they continued to prioritize the run game, but as time continued to run off the clock, tensions and aggressions continued to simmer with after-play confrontations. A first down for Auburn quickly turned into its fourth turnover of the game as Johnson once again highlighted his return and forced a fumble, but a quick touch by a Tiger while out of bounds kept it in Auburn’s possession, the match that lit the flame.
On the very next play, what seemed like another fumble by Auburn caused by Johnson once more, was ruled a dead ball, causing outrage among the A&M players and further fueling the fire between both teams. When the Aggies returned to the field, without Stewart to go deep, Price stepped up to the plate with a 17-yard catch to move the chains. Despite the momentum returning to the maroon and white, the roller car reached its big drop as Auburn junior defensive end Colby Wooden forced a fumble after tearing through the offensive line that was recovered by the Tigers.
Back on offense, Auburn continued with its successful run plays, sending Bigsby up the middle for a 15-yard gain. Despite the aggressive start, the drive ended in only 3 more points for the Tigers, still leaving it a two-score game with just under three minutes left to play. Early in A&M’s drive, Preston took a strong hit to the head from Auburn redshirt freshman Cayden Bridges that was flagged for targeting but ultimately not called. With time dwindling, the Aggies picked up the pace, driving down the field for a touchdown pass from Weigman to Preston to bring A&M within 3.
A failed onside kick attempt by A&M brought the ball back into Auburn’s possession with 1:32 left in the game, and the Aggies only had one timeout with three timeouts for the Tigers. Ultimately, Auburn kneeled out the game for a Tiger victory.
“The purpose of the season right now is just to finish strong,” junior offensive lineman Layden Robinson said. “You gotta finish, you gotta have that loser mentality or that winner’s mentality and our job is to have that winner’s mentality.”

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