War Eagle Extra

Auburn stumbles for second straight year in SEC opener with loss to Texas A&M

Auburn quarterback Sean White gets sacked by Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn quarterback Sean White gets sacked by Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Nothing came easy Saturday night for a pair of SEC offenses used to lighting up the scoreboard.

Texas A&M got just enough in its third-ever visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium from graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight to escape back to College Station with a 29-16 win.

Knight finished the game with modest numbers but came through in key situations throughout the game.

With Texas A&M clinging to a 16-10 lead late in the third quarter, he converted on a fourth-and-3 in Auburn’s territory hitting Christian Kirk on a slant down to the 28-yard line.

Daniel LaCamera connected on his fourth field goal of the night to make it a two-possession game when the drive stalled out in the red zone.

A tired Auburn defense allowed Trayveon Williams to score on an 89-yard late in the game, but that wasn’t indicative of how the group played for 3 1/2 quarters.

Texas A&M had to turn to LaCamera on four of its five trips inside the 20-yard line, but Auburn’s offense couldn’t take advantage of the Aggies’ missed opportunities.

Auburn ran 89 offensive plays, but 12 of them went for negative yardage. The Tigers averaged only 4.5 yards per play — a paltry 7.4 yards per completion — and finished the game 6 of 17 on third down.

“It was a dog fight,” Malzahn said. “Our offense just couldn’t seize the moment.”

The offenses on display Saturday night were a far cry from the ones two years ago that combined for 79 points and 1,035 yards in a wild shoot out.

In the first half, Knight’s two explosive plays were enough to send Texas A&M into halftime with a six-point lead.

Knight set up the Aggies first touchdowns with a 51-yard bomb to Rickey Seals-Jones down to Auburn’s 7-yard line. Two plays later the Oklahoma transfer found Reynolds in the end zone.

Knight hit Speedy Noel later in the half for a 40-gain that helped put Texas A&M in field goal range.

The big advantage for Knight was he wasn’t running for his life all night long.

Texas A&M consistently pressured Auburn quarterback Sean White sacking him three times and altering many of his pass attempts. The Aggies defensive front also disrupted Auburn’s run game with at least one defender in the backfield on most plays.

John Franklin III came in for a series at quarterback midway through the fourth quarter providing the briefest glimpses of a spark, but that quickly faded when Auburn turned the ball over on downs in the red zone.

Franklin ran the ball 11-yard for a first down then watched Kamryn Pettway carry it six straight times down to A&M’s 12-yard line.

With the short field, Texas A&M locked in on the run tackling Franklin in the backfield on third and fourth down forcing a change of possessions.

“We felt like we needed a shot in the arm,” Malzahn said of putting in Franklin.

Auburn’s only other big drive of the night came on its second possession, which accounted for nearly half of the team’s 200 total yards in the first half.

White was 4 of 4 on the drive for 39 yards with three of his passes going for first downs.

Auburn moved the length of the field in less than two and a half minutes.

Running back Kamryn Pettway capped off the drive scoring his first career touchdown on a 5-yard run to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 7:11 to go in the quarter.

Auburn has now lost six straight SEC games at home going all the way back to the program’s 42-35 win over South Carolina on Oct. 25, 2014.

“Each year is different, this is 2016,” Malzahn said of the streak. “The only thing on my mind right now is making us as good as we can possibly be. You turn the page on this one, you learn from it, you go to practice and give them a good plan.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra