No. 24 Auburn upset No. 7 Texas A&M 45-41 Saturday afternoon in a fast-paced SEC West shootout that better resembled the high-scoring no-huddle attacks of the Big 12 and Pac-12. After 59 minutes where the defenses were mere spectators, Auburn got a late stop to seal the win.
As expected, defense was optional throughout this game. Johnny Manziel threw three touchdowns in the first half, all to receiver Mike Evans, including a 42-yard strike with 24 seconds left before halftime to give the Aggies a 24-17 lead at the break. For his part, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall ran for a first-half touchdown and threw for another.
It took Auburn almost seven minutes to tie the game after the halftime break, but a Nick Marshall 43-yard pass to Sammie Coates knotted the score at 24-24. Manziel and the Aggies struck back immediately with a nine-play, 82-yard drive ending in Evans' fourth touchdown reception of the day.
Manziel went down injured early in the fourth quarter when his throwing arm went dead. He was taken to the locker room, but quickly returned to the field.
In his absence, an A&M drive stalled and ended in a 20-yard field goal to extend the Aggies' lead to 34-24. With Manziel out, Auburn attacked. Marshall first ran 13 yards for a touchdown to cap a seven-play, 75-yard drive that took just 2:33 off the clock. After an A&M three-and-out, Auburn covered 69 yards with only five plays for another touchdown, highlighted by a 53-yard run from Tre Mason. Suddenly, Auburn led 38-34, and Manziel was forced back onto the field.
The Heisman Trophy winner did not disappoint. Manziel, clearly favoring the injured arm, completed seven passes in a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. He ended it by beating the Auburn defense to the pylon on a read option, and once again gave Texas A&M a three-point advantage with five minutes left to play.
As expected, Auburn turned to the running game, with head coach Gus Malzahn calling eight runs in the first nine plays of their final offensive series. On 3rd and 9 from the Texas A&M 39, Marshall connected with Marcus Davis down the right sideline for 27 yards, and a pair of Tre Mason runs gave the Tigers their sixth touchdown of the day. Auburn held a 45-41 lead with just 1:19 remaining.
Manziel was not going to fade away. The Aggies set up on their own 35 yard line after an excellent kick return from Trey Williams. Manziel immediately took A&M into Auburn territory with a 19-yard completion to Mike Evans. After a six-yard scramble and timeout, another completion to Evans gave the Aggies 1st and 10 at the Auburn 18 with 42 seconds remaining. Auburn's defense finally stiffened, forcing an incompletion and sacking Manziel for a loss of eight yards. With 18 seconds left, Texas A&M faced 4th and 13 at the Auburn 21, and Manziel's luck finally ran out. Dee Ford sacked Manziel for a massive loss, and the celebration began on the Auburn sideline.
Box Score Hero: Even in a losing effort, your player of the game has to be Mike Evans. The Aggies receiver caught 11 passes for a staggering 287 yards and four touchdowns. Evans averaged more than 26 yards per completion, and accounted for nearly half of the Aggies' 602 yards of total offense.
For the victorious Tigers, the accolades go to Tre Mason, who ran 27 times for 178 yards and the game-winning score. In the process, Mason set a season high for rushing yards and carries.
Rankings Ramifications: Texas A&M will almost certainly drop out of the top 10 with its second loss of the season to a team from Alabama. Auburn, which entered the Top 25 for the first time last week, could rise into the mid-teens.
But Did They Cover? Texas A&M was a 13-point favorite Saturday. Obviously, they were unable to cover that spread.
Next Week's Schedule: Auburn goes back into non-conference play next week against Florida Atlantic. Texas A&M gets Vanderbilt at Kyle Field.