COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Auburn led by only 11 points late in the second quarter after scoring 14 unanswered points to start the game, and Texas A&M was lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal.
With the Aggies set to get the ball first to start the second half, it was a chance for the home team to turn a two-score deficit potentially into nothing.
Instead, No. 17 Texas A&M came out of that sequence trailing by 18. No. 8 Auburn won 28-20.
Aggies place-kicker Seth Small missed the field goal wide left and running back Isaiah Spiller fumbled after a 13-yard gain on the first play of the second half — Tigers safety Daniel Thomas forced it and recovered it. Bo Nix led a six-play, 38-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams.
Texas A&M's second drive of the second half went sack, sack, penalty, penalty before a 22-yard draw and a punt. It scored a field goal and a touchdown in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game, but at that point, it was too little, too late.
Jimbo Fisher's offense finished the game with just 290 total yards.
That's the defense. Here are three takeaways from the offensive side of the ball in dominant victory that moved Auburn to 4-0 all-time at Kyle Field, 4-0 to start the 2019 season and 1-0 in SEC play:
1. There's one thing Bo Nix really needs to work on.
It's deep passes. The true freshman quarterback had a decent day in the first true road start of his career — he completed 12 of 20 passes for 100 yards and the 9-yard touchdown to Williams — but, with three more completions, it could have been much better.
In the first quarter, Nix overthrew Schwartz in the end zone, which is hard to do given the wide receiver's speed. In the third, he overthrew a wide-open Will Hastings on third-and-8 — he was moving to his left and under pressure, but it's a throw he has to make. Later that same quarter, Auburn ran a similar flea-flicker to the one that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown last week, only this time, Nix overshot Eli Stove.
All three of those drives ended in punts. Nix should probably practice nothing but deep shots in practice over the next week.
2. Anthony Schwartz needs only one hand to break open a game.
Anthony Schwartz received the ball from JaTarvious Whitlow on the reverse on about Auburn's 35-yard line. By the time he turned the corner, everyone wearing blue and orange at Kyle Field knew he was gone.
Left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho ran ahead to block for him. Schwartz sprinted past him before he could even find a body. Two unblocked Texas A&M defenders tried to converge on him at about their own 45, but they had no chance — the sophomore wide receiver (and track star) took the ball to the house from 57 yards out to score the game's first touchdown.
That's the type of playmaking ability Schwartz can bring at any moment, and also the type of playmaking ability the Tigers wish they could have used more often this season. The broken hand Schwartz suffered on Aug. 4 has limited his touches — he didn't record his first catch until last week against Kent State, and that first-quarter carry was his first of the year. Schwartz also caught two passes for 30 yards.
So that's only three touches. But Schwartz showed on that first play that he doesn't need many to break open a game. And there could be more in store soon — the sophomore traded the protective hard cast he had been wearing for a softer wrap, which is an indication that his left hand is getting healthier.
3. Did Auburn save JaTarvious Whitlow for the second half?
Auburn's leading rusher — and the second-leading rusher in the SEC entering Saturday — didn't record his first touch until Auburn's 20th play of the game at Kyle Field, which came late in the second quarter. He entered halftime with just two carries for minus-4 yards.
Which was a little bit odd at the time. But in the fourth quarter, when Auburn needed a score to ice the game, it started to make a lot of sense —Whitlow carried 18 times for 67 yards and an 8-yard touchdown on a 12-play, 69-yard drive that put the Tigers ahead 28-10 with fewer than nine minutes to play.
The reason Whitlow may not have been used as much earlier was that Auburn was very clearly trying to attack the edges a stout Texas A&M defense that held the Tigers to just 19 yards rushing on 21 carries when they last met in November of last year. Shaun Shivers and even Harold Joiner, along with Schwartz and Stove, were used in that role.
The Tigers finished Saturday's game with 193 rushing yards on 42 carries.