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Jeremy Johnson leads Auburn to upset of Texas A&M

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn running back Jovon Robinson (29) raises his arms after rushing for a touchdown against Texas A&M during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Auburn running back Jovon Robinson (29) raises his arms after rushing for a touchdown against Texas A&M during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) AP

A matchup of potential future SEC stars at the quarterback position turned into a battle of backups, but it didn't make Saturday night's game at Kyle Field any less compelling.

Backup Jeremy Johnson did enough to lead Auburn to a 26-10 win over Texas A&M on a night where the Tigers' defense, and ground attack excelled.

"Tonight was a true team win," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I thought we played well in all three phases really for the first time all year."

Before Aggies freshman Kyler Murray left the game with an injury, Auburn's defense picked the quarterback off three times, and held him to 37 yards rushing.

Texas A&M scored on its opening drive, but didn't get on the scoreboard again until Auburn was up 20-3 at the end of the third quarter.

Auburn relied on a diverse array of skill position players running the ball out of the backfield. Six different players had at least one carry with Jovon Robinson leading the way.

The running back scored his first career touchdown in the first half, and crossed the 150-yard mark in the fourth quarter.

Robinson, Ryan Davis, Jason Smith, Peyton Barber and Ricardo Louis each had carries for 15 yards or more.

"They got to the perimeter which got us running a little bit, then they hammered it inside," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "They were very effective."

Jeremy Johnson started the second half by connecting with Kerryon Johnson down Auburn's sideline for a 34-yard completion, his longest of the game, to set up a 35-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson.

Carlson's field goal gave Auburn a 17-3 lead with 12:29 remaining in the third quarter. The sophomore added three more field goals before the night was over.

At the end of the third quarter, Texas A&M put together a lengthy 14-play, 83-yard drive to cut Auburn's lead to 20-10.

Jake Hubenake threw a 2-yard touchdown two plays after coming into the game for an injured Kyler Murray. He threw to Speedy Noil on a fade route in the corner of the end zone.

Auburn answered with a 70-plus yard drive that stalled inside the red zone. Carlson connected on his third field goal to extend the Tigers lead to 23-10.

It was the Tigers third straight trip into the red zone that ended without a touchdown.

Robinson put Auburn on his back early in the game. On an 80-yard scoring drive, Robinson carried the ball five times for 58-yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run on third down at the goal line.

The junior college transfer's first touchdown in a Tigers' jersey put his team up 14-3 with 13:40 to go in the first half.

Carlton Davis set up the scoring drive with his team-leading third interception of the season.

The true freshman picked off a deep pass attempt from Murray to Damion Ratley in the end zone. Both Ratley and Davis went up for the jump ball, but Auburn's defensive back ripped it away from the receiver in midair.

It was the first of two interceptions in the half for Murray, and three overall. Justin Garrett picked off the freshman at Auburn's 1-yard line early in the second quarter.

Murray was trying to hit Josh Reynolds cutting across the field in the end zone, but didn't see Garrett sitting in the middle of the route.

Blake Countess picked Murray off on Texas A&M's first drive of the second half. Countess jumped in front of Christian Kirk on a pass thrown towards the Aggies' sideline.

“You can’t go all out rushing, and doing pass rushing moves,” Garrett said, of facing Murray. “You have to contain him in the pocket. He’s a shorter quarterback, so it’s going to be harder for him to see over his offensive lineman. Our goal was to contain him, collapse the pocket and make it hard for him to throw the football.”

Jeremy Johnson came out sharp going 6 of 6 for 40 yards on Auburn's opening drive. He led the offense 75 yards down the field in 11 plays, and capped off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown throw to Marcus Davis.

Johnson made a nice throw to Melvin Ray for a 17-yard gain to move the chains on a third-and-six deep in A&M territory, and Jovon Robinson put the ball inside the 10-yard line by breaking a 16-yard run.

"I'm very proud of him being able to come in here and get the victory on the road," Malzahn said of Johnson. "He did a phenomenal job running the offense. Jeremy had a great week of practice. He went through a storm early in the season and it says a lot about his character that he kept working."

The touchdown gave Auburn a 7-3 lead with 6:42 to go in the first quarter. Texas A&M had used a short drive off the opening kickoff to gain an early 3-0 advantage.

Returner Speedy Noil gave the Aggies a short field with a 39-yard return to start the game. Murray hit Noil for a 13-yard completion to get the offense across midfield where the drive stalled.

It was enough to put Texas A&M in field goal range with Taylor Bertolet nailing a 50-yard field goal for the first points of the game.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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