The magic that defined Auburn’s 2013 campaign was nowhere to be found in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. Texas A&M recovered two fumbles in the fourth quarter and halted the No. 3 Tigers’ late rally to steal a 41-38 win on the Plains.
Here are three quick thoughts from the game:
1. Auburn handed this one to Texas A&M
Momentum seemed to be trending Auburn’s way late in the fourth quarter. That didn’t stop coach Gus Malzahn’s team from giving the game away.
The Tigers fumbled twice in their final four offensive snaps to squash any shot at a comeback against Texas A&M. As quarterback Nick Marshall and the offense knocked on the door of the end zone trailing 41-38 with 2:37 to play, Marshall botched a handoff to running back Cameron Artis-Payne on second-and-goal. Texas A&M recovered and seemingly had the game in hand.
However, the Aggies went three and out and punted from deep in their own end zone, giving Malzhan’s squad one final shot to inch into field-goal range or strike for a game-winning touchdown. But bad luck struck again, as veteran center Reese Dismukes snapped the ball before Marshall was ready. The snap bounced off Marshall’s legs and Texas A&M recovered, allowing the Aggies to kneel out the clock. Malzahn suffered his first home loss as Auburn’s head coach, and, surprisingly, the offense’s decision-making was to blame.
2. Kyle Allen has the makings of a star
Texas A&M’s true freshman quarterback showed why he could be a force in the SEC for years to come.
Allen helped the Aggies race out of the gate with two touchdown passes in the game's first three minutes. He found Malcome Kennedy for a 60-yard grab and Josh Reynolds for a 36-yard completion within a 33-second span. After Auburn tied the game 14-14, Allen tossed two more scores in the second quarter. At halftime he was 12-of-16 for 187 yards with four touchdowns and one pick.
The Tigers turned on the defense in the second half, but Allen still finished 19-of-29 for 277 yards. Whether Kenny Hill returns from his suspension to contend for the Aggies’ starting job remains to be seen, but Allen showed plenty of potential. He could be Texas A&M’s quarterback of the future.
3. Auburn’s playoff hopes just got really slim
The Tigers sat at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings entering this weekend. Now their playoff hopes might be gone. Texas A&M looked dangerous on Saturday, but it remains an unranked, three-loss opponent that won't look good in the eyes of the selection committee. Many quality teams have just one loss, so Auburn’s stock is dropping rapidly.
The Tigers still have a shot to make their mark in the SEC West, most notably when they play at Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 29. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, still must play Mississippi State, who also has yet to face Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. There’s plenty of football left, but Auburn's loss to Texas A&M will be very difficult to overcome.