Isaiah Spiller, No. 14 Texas A&M Beat No. 13 Auburn 20-3 in Defensive Struggle

Adam WellsNovember 6, 2021

Texas A&M running back Devon Achane (6) runs for a gain as Auburn's Smoke Monday (21) and Owen Pappoe (0) defend during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Texas A&M continues to take down SEC heavyweights after a 20-3 win over Auburn in a defensive battle at Kyle Field on Saturday. 

Since losing back-to-back games against Arkansas and Mississippi State, the Aggies have been playing their best football of the season. They stunned Alabama 41-38 on Oct. 9 and outscored Missouri and South Carolina by a combined score of 79-28. 

The Tigers entered this week ranked No. 13 in the College Football Playoff standings. They were tied with Alabama in the loss column for the top spot in the SEC West division before this game.

Both defenses were expected to dominate in this game. They more than lived up to their potential. Auburn kept Texas A&M's offense out of the end zone. Zach Calzada had just 192 yards on 29 pass attempts. 

The Aggies only allowed 226 yards in the win, and the defense scored the game's only touchdown on Micheal Clemons' 24-yard fumble return early in the fourth quarter. 

Isaiah Spiller was the offensive standout. Texas A&M's junior running back racked up 112 yards on 21 carries. 

Notable Game Stats

  • Zach Calzada (A&M): 15-of-29, 192 yards
  • Isaiah Spiller (A&M): 21 carries, 112 yards
  • Devon Achane (A&M): 10 carries, 98 yards
  • Bo Nix (AUB): 20-of-41, 153 yards, INT
  • Tank Bigsby (AUB): 15 carries, 69 yards
  • John Samuel Shenker (AUB): 4 receptions, 50 yards

Aggies Defense Leads the Way in Marquee Win

Defense has been the strength for Texas A&M this season. Alabama and Mississippi State are the only opponents that have scored more than 14 points against this group in 2021.

The Aggies offense has had some good moments this season, but there's no disputing it has a lot of room to improve. The unit into Saturday tied for 104th in the nation with 29.6 points per game.

That figure is going to go down after Saturday. There were plenty of sloppy moments against a good Auburn defense.

After picking up 80 yards on 14 plays and kicking a field goal on their opening drive, the Aggies rank a total of 24 plays over their next six drives. They had three three-and-outs during that span.

Neither offense was able to get any sustained momentum going in the first half.

Justin Hokanson @_JHokanson

Auburn 3, Texas A&amp;M 3. Halftime.<br><br>Not great execution by either team on offense, but good defensive play.<br><br>Auburn has scored six points in the last four quarters.<a href="https://twitter.com/AuburnLiveOn3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AuburnLiveOn3</a> <a href="https://t.co/8ZpUJiMh6R">pic.twitter.com/8ZpUJiMh6R</a>

Kirk Bohls @kbohls

In the second quarter, A&amp;M and Auburn combined for six first downs and zero points in a 3-3 tie.

The score remained tied at three until the 3:39 mark of the third quarter when Seth Small's 29-yard field goal put Texas A&M on top.

That field goal was set up by Calzada's 49-yard completion to Caleb Chapman.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

Beautiful throw — right on the money<a href="https://twitter.com/AggieFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AggieFootball</a> gets the big play they needed. <a href="https://t.co/xJrudidTva">pic.twitter.com/xJrudidTva</a>

Calzada appeared to suffer a shoulder injury on the drive, but he was able to remain in the game.

After the defense forced a three-and-out against Auburn, the Aggies were able to get another field goal from Small to go up 9-3 with 13:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Fittingly, Texas A&M's defense sealed the win on Auburn's ensuing possession. Nix fumbled the football without being touched, allowing Micheal Clemons to pick it up and run it in for the score.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

THE BALL IS OUT<a href="https://twitter.com/AggieFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AggieFootball</a> scoops and scores! <a href="https://t.co/eHXR0dz9e3">pic.twitter.com/eHXR0dz9e3</a>

Texas A&M converted a two-point conversion to make it a 17-3 game.   

Devon Achane looked like he was going to blow the game wide open after getting past the Auburn defense for a 68-yard gain, but he was caught from behind and lost the football. Roger McCreary picked it up for the Tigers at their own 5-yard line.

What seemed like a glimmer of hope for Auburn turned into more of the same for the offense. It gained 41 yards on 12 plays, but the drive stalled with a turnover on downs.

While this game wasn't pretty or technically sound, Texas A&M did show tremendous resolve with its stellar effort on defense.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher will have to get his offense back on track against better opposition, but this is an excellent win for the Aggies' resume against a quality opponent.    

Nix's Mistake Costs Tigers

There were some indications that Nix was taking steps forward in recent weeks. The junior quarterback went a combined 43-of-56 for 568 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in wins over Arkansas and Mississippi. 

PFF College @PFF_College

Bo Nix's grade this season:<br><br>📉 First 4 games: 63.9<br>📈 Last 4 games: 88.2 <a href="https://t.co/fxKveMtltr">pic.twitter.com/fxKveMtltr</a>

Another reason to be optimistic that he could step up was Texas A&M's middling defensive stats relative to its competition.

Per Jason Caldwell of 247Sports, the Aggies allowed an average of 313 yards through the air this season against the top four passing teams they have played (Mississippi State, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas). 

While no one would confuse Auburn for an air-raid offense, Nix's recent improvements made this an intriguing matchup. 

Instead, it looked like a lot of his other big-game performances. The Alabama native averaged 3.7 yards per attempt. 

Unnecessary Roughness @UnnecRoughness

We got bad Bo Nix today

This is basically the type of player Nix has been over the course of his Auburn career. He's made incremental improvements in three seasons, including a career-high completion percentage (62.9) and yards per attempt (7.3) in 2021 coming into Saturday. However, his efforts against the Aggies were far from enough.

Nix wasn't the only issue for the Tigers in the loss, though. They came into this game ranked 35th in the nation with 197.8 rushing yards per game. They were held to 73 yards on 29 carries. 

Kobe Hudson dropped a pass on the first play of Auburn's second possession that would have gone for a first down. The drive ultimately yielded a field goal, but the usually-surehanded Hudson only had one catch for eight yards. 

Auburn still has three games left, including home matchups with Mississippi State next week and the Iron Bowl against Alabama on Nov. 27. 

This is the type of performance that should force head coach Bryan Harsin and his staff to go back to the drawing board for the final stretch of the year. If the offense doesn't get better, this once-promising season could fall apart quickly.     

What's Next?

Auburn will host No. 17 Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 13 at 12 p.m. ET. Texas A&M will take on No. 16 Mississippi at Vaught–Hemingway Stadium next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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