No offensive touchdowns, no problem. The Aggies generate enough offense to go along with their dominating defensive performance to pull away in the fourth quarter for the 20-3 victory in a Top-15 showdown vs Auburn.
The defense played its best overall game of the year in my opinion against a quality opponent and an extremely dangerous quarterback. Elko mixed and matched all game and kept applying pressure to Bo Nix, and the defensive line was so good and disciplined in their rush lanes, rarely allowing Nix room to improvise with his feet. The defense caused two fumbles from Nix, recovering one for the game’s lone touchdown and forcing multiple throw-aways and a late INT to seal the game. Auburn only generated 73 yards on the ground, 153 through the air, and managed to convert only 23% of their third downs.
Spiller (112 yards) and Achane (98 yards) did what they do, but besides the obvious toughness Calzada showed through the separated shoulder injury, this very well might have been his most complete game. Sure his final line was 15-29 for 192 yards with no TDs, BUT ALSO ZERO INTs, and that is huge. Calzada has grown leaps in bounds from the Mississippi State game but there have been at least one or two very questionable throws since that led to a turnover along his journey of maturation. Several times Saturday sure-handed receivers dropped balls or his stat line would have been much better, but I just loved his command and decision making, he was in total control.
Time to check the tape and see how the Aggies wrapped up the State of Alabama championship against a very good Auburn team.
Bo Nix is a trouble maker when things break down on offense, when he escapes the pocket, he can kill you with his feet or extend plays and find a big play downfield. The Aggies stayed in their lanes all game and collapsed down around Nix, this play killed Auburn’s opening drive. It was a familiar face too, Tyree Johnson continued his hot streak Saturday with these two plays.
The second play Johnson makes is such a smart play, he knows he can't get there but keeps his edge set and swipes at the ball causing another drive-killing play.
Once again, zero apologies for my man-crush on Edgerrin Cooper... kid is special already and he is only a redshirt freshman. This first play stopped Auburn's best drive of the day and makes them settle for 3. There was great coverage in the secondary, Nix has to settle for the dump-off in the flat, but Cooper pulls the pin and makes a great open-field tackle.
Next, was a play that fired the 12TH MAN up! Auburn loves to run the toss play, but Cooper shoots the gap and flows through from the backside of the play to make a tackle for loss, with attitude :) The Aggies had this play dead to rights anyway, as you see three maroon jerseys right behind Cooper ready to pounce if needed.
Mike Elko must have been like a proud evil scientist in the booth Saturday, as his team toyed with Bo Nix. The defensive line generated pressure by itself at times and then at other times Elko would dial-up blitz looks like this. This first play was a delayed safety blitz, Demani doesn't get all the way home but forces a rattled Bo Nix to make a poor throw on third down.
But the second time, Bo is not so lucky... Auburn tries to set up a screen but the defense is in the backfield so fast he can’t breathe. Richardson gets him this time for a huge sack that puts Auburn behind the sticks.
Taking a brief break from all the great defense played Saturday to focus on the fact that the Offense tallied over 200 yards on the ground. Spiller had such a great game running behind Green and company on the offensive line. The first example is the entire offensive line washes down the defense and Wydermyer and Green win a point of attack giving Spiller a nice running lane.
The next example is more of the same from Green, this time he and Foster work in tandem to open up some daylight and work the second level too.
More Spiller, more chunk plays late in the game and the offensive line has put their will upon the defense and Auburn doesn’t want anymore!
Play Action time!
Run, Run, Run with Spiller and Achane, work short and intermediate pass game to Wydermyer and Smith, and before you know it the defense has been put to sleep. Timing is important here, the defense bites hard and Chappy gets in between the safties for a big-time deep ball!
In a 9-3 game with the result still very much hanging in the balance, Bo Nix blinked first. He played his butt off Saturday but the Aggie defense was relentless. Peavy gets great penetration from his defensive tackle position and puts pressure on the QB quickly, Bo drops the ball as he tries to pull off one of his disappearing tricks. But, not this time, Clemons scoops and scores as the 12TH MAN explodes in celebration at the game’s only Touchdown!
The defense puts the game away once in for all late in the fourth quarter when Jaylon Jones puts up back-to-back great plays. The first was a nice pass breakup and the second was this pic off the grass. Aggies bring Cooper and as the pocket begins to collapse, Nix rushes the throw in the direction of the Aggies best corner, the result was not shocking.
I want to end this one a little different because there were two moments from this game that have been burned into my memory and neither are highlights. But both make me love this team for who they are and make it evident this program is changing from the inside out. Zack Calzada is not promised anything past this year with King’s return and the arrival of 5-star Conner Weigman, but man, he has taken ownership of his moment. He displayed extreme toughness and leadership again Saturday, it's hard to watch this clip of his shoulder being popped back in place but a picture is worth a thousand words... he missed two plays.
The last clip is the ender, Achane has been so, so good all year and never puts the ball on the ground. So you feel bad for him, and you see how much it matters to him when he laid face down on Kyle Field after ripping off a 47-yard run and fumbling at the end. He was not on the ground long because his defensive teammates ran to him, pulled him up, and said “we got you”... then went out there and backed it up.
Jimbo preaches Toughness, Effort, Discipline, Pride, Grit, and that “Love is the reason for the FIGHT”! You see all of that right here. Culture is everything and it looks like Texas A&M is full of all the right stuff. Bring on the Lane Train and whatever else this season has, I love our chances and I love this team.