Auburn vs. Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned in the Aggies Loss
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies fell in a shootout to the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, 45-41, and dropped to 5-2 on the season.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel torched the Auburn defense for 454 yards through the air and 48 on the ground, and Aggie wide receiver Mike Evans hauled in 11 passes for 289 yards, as well as each of Manziel's four touchdown passes.
Manziel overcame an injury to this throwing arm and led the Aggies down the field and into scoring territory with less than a minute to play. The threat ended when the sophomore was sacked on fourth down.
In a game full of offense and little defense, there were plenty of lessons learned about this Texas A&M team in its loss to Auburn.
Not Only Does Johnny Football Make Plays...
Johnny Manziel was all over the field for Texas A&M.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner accounted for 502 of the Aggies' 602 total yards on offense and each of A&M's five touchdowns. According to CBS's in-game broadcast, it was Manziel's fifth 500-plus-yard performance in his career, and no other SEC player has had more than one.
The Aggies won each of the first three contests in which Manziel had accomplished the feat, but Texas A&M's two losses also occurred when it's quarterback reached that mark.
...He's a Warrior, Too
Manziel was shredding the Auburn defense, and the Aggies were mere yards away from another touchdown.
But then, after Manziel pump-faked a defender into the air, he was pounded into the ground and landed on his throwing arm. Manziel left the game temporarily, and after being looked at by trainers, he attempted to throw the ball on the sideline.
Long story short, Manziel could not.
He then went to a training table unmonitored by TV cameras and eventually returned to the game, missing just one offensive possession. Manziel was clearly favoring his shoulder throughout the team's final two possessions, but he fought through the pain and led a go-ahead scoring drive.
Manziel nearly led the game-winner, too, so the quarterback's toughness certainly cannot be questioned.
Mike Evans Is Unbelievable
Mike Evans already had a monstrous game this season—against Alabama he grabbed seven passes for 279 yards and a score.
Gotta be hard to top that, right?
Well, the sophomore receiver racked up 11 receptions, 287 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday afternoon.
Evans has now topped 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and will be either the NCAA's leading or second-leading receiver by the end of the night.
Travis Labhart Is Becoming Manziel's Second Option
Robert Cessna of The Eagle notes how Travis Labhart found his way to the Texas A&M football team in an unconventional manner.
But right now, it doesn't matter how the senior receiver made onto the roster; Labhart is producing like a highly recruited player.
After catching eight passes last week against Ole Miss, Labhart hauled in seven passes on Saturday, gaining 79 yards. He was a key component in the Aggies' passing attack.
He now has 18 receptions for 228 yards this season.
Texas A&M's Offense Is Still Ridiculously Good
As mentioned earlier, led by Manziel and his fantastic game, the Aggies racked up 602 yards of total offense.
Texas A&M averaged 7.3 yards per play and gained 29 first downs, including 10 on the ground.
Even with Evans and Labhart each putting together great performances, nine different receivers caught a pass, including Malcome Kennedy who snagged five.
Running backs Trey Williams and Ben Malena rushed for 45 and 23 yards, respectively, and although those are not gaudy numbers, the duo was productive when called upon.
Kevin Sumlin Is a Great Game Manager
Holding a seven-point lead and nearing the end zone, Kevin Sumlin made a gutsy decision to call a fake field goal at the 10-yard line.
And it worked.
Although the Aggies still managed a field goal, it was a brilliant choice by Sumlin and caught Auburn napping.
Following Manziel's injury, according to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News, Manziel told Sumlin "he was ready to go."
Even when it was blatantly obvious his star signal-caller was in pain, Sumlin stuck with Manziel because he provided A&M its best chance to win. Instead of using a healthy but inexperienced backup, the Aggies head coach trusted his quarterback, and Manziel put his team in position to win the game.
The Run Defense Is Simply Awful
Tre Mason and Nick Marshall ran over, under, around and through the Aggies' pitiful rush defense.
Mason gained 178 yards on 6.6 yards per carry, ripped off a long run of 53 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown. Marshall tacked on 100 more yards on 20 carries and two scores.
In addition to Auburn's 100-yard RB duo, Corey Grant (45 yards), Ricardo Louis (a 32-yard reverse) and Cameron Artis-Payne (28 yards, one touchdown) each made big plays for the Tigers' ground game.
Overall, Auburn gained a staggering 379 yards on 60 carries—6.3 yards per attempt.
And the Pass Defense Isn't Much Better
Nick Marshall threw for "only" 236 yards, but when a rushing attack nearly eclipses 400 yards, why pass?
Sammie Coates snagged five passes for 104 yards and a score, and he was one dropped pass away from 95 more yards.
Jay Prosch (56 yards) and Marcus Davis (27 yards) each were recipients of great passes on well-designed wheel routes, and both big-gainers set up Auburn touchdowns. Much to the satisfaction of CBS Sports' Gary Danielson, those wheel routes were open throughout the game.
Though the Aggies forced four straight punts during the first half, Texas A&M's defense could not stop the Tigers when it mattered the most.
Drew Kaser Was Fantastic
No, it's not a good consolation prize, but Aggies punter Drew Kaser was outstanding.
Kaser punted four times—it was just the third game this season he has had that many attempts—but he constantly hammered the ball.
The sophomore was already averaging 47.5 yards per kick entering the game. He notched a 69-yard boot and also deadened a punt at Auburn's 1-yard line.
Kaser finished the game with an impressive 54.8-yard average.
Texas A&M's Season Has Changed
The Aggies' division- and national-title hopes slipped away when Johnny did.
Barring massive collapses by both Alabama and LSU, Texas A&M will not punch a ticket to the SEC Championship.
Manziel and Co. still must battle LSU, but tiebreaking scenarios are not in the Aggies favor.
Season goals for A&M have officially changed, so a sixth win and bowl eligibility is the first thing Kevin Sumlin's crew must accomplish.