COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Auburn's defense marched into Kyle Field and picked up where it left off in the second half against Ole Miss.
The offense picked up where it left off, too.
The second half of that win over Ole Miss ended in a 3-3 score. So did the first half of Auburn's 20-3 loss at Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) on Saturday. But Auburn (6-3, 3-2) never figured out how to score in what seemed like an old-fashioned slugfest before turning into a complete second-half flop.
Here are the grades.
One of the keys to the game in this week's scouting report was avoiding turnovers against a Texas A&M defense that had forced one in all but one game. But even before Bo Nix's fourth-quarter fumble that the Aggies returned for a dagger touchdown, this game was a complete offensive failure, ending with seven punts including four three-and-outs, plus a turnover on downs. Auburn's offensive line took its biggest step forward a week ago then regressed in Texas.
Derek Mason's defense played the elusive complete game that players have been imploring themselves to do for weeks. The Aggies didn't score a touchdown on offense. Auburn was at its best on third down and in the red zone. Just when the Tigers finally looked worn out against the run, Donovan Kaufman forced a fumble on a big play and Roger McCreary recovered.
Special teams: D
Ladarius Tennison hammered a Texas A&M player on a fair catch, adding to Auburn's recent penalty issue on special teams. More alarmingly, preseason All-American Anders Carlson missed his fifth field goal of the season on one of the few occasions when the offense showed life.
The grades throughout this season have given a lot of credit to Bryan Harsin and his staff for fantastic in-game coaching, but it feels like this was the first time in a few weeks that Auburn didn't have an answer for its adversity. Mason is rolling, but Mike Bobo's offense seemed stale and out of ideas by the fourth quarter.
Expectations reached a season high before this matchup, but Auburn was humbled in a tough road game. The SEC West crown isn't out of the realm of possibility, but Auburn no longer controls its own destiny: The Tigers must win out and rely on a Texas A&M loss.