Texas A&M outlasts Auburn for sixth straight win
AUBURN, Ala. -- - Texas A&M looked every bit the playoff contender with a seemingly unstoppable offense and impenetrable defense - in the fourth quarter, at least.
And that was plenty.
Kellen Mond passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third and the fifth-ranked Aggies scored 17 points in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind 31-20 victory over Auburn on Saturday.
The Aggies (7-1, CFP No. 5) dominated the final quarter to win their sixth straight and remain in College Football Playoff contention. The Tigers (5-4), who have gone 0-3 against teams ranked in the top five at the time, led 20-14 entering the fourth.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher wasn't interested in speculating on how the win might affect his team's playoff chances.
"That's for y'all to judge," Fisher told reporters. "I'm glad we're winning, I'm glad we're playing. I don't really care. We'll evaluate everything at the end of the year."
Mond rebounded from his worst game of the season against LSU with a strong performance. He completed 18 of 23 for 196 yards, highlighted by two TDs to Jalen Wydermyer, and ran for 60 yards.
"Down in the second half and in the fourth quarter, having the ability to keep your poise and still maintain that level of composure was big-time for our offense," said Mond, whose third-and-9 run kept the Aggies' final drive alive.
Seth Small iced the game with a 32-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining after an earlier miss had helped Auburn remain within a score. It's the most league victories the Aggies have had since joining the SEC in 2012.
"That's a big-time kick coming back after missing a kick there," Fisher said.
Isaiah Spiller had his fifth 100-yard game of the current winning streak, gaining 120 on 20 carries. Devon Achane also ran for 99 yards on just nine carries. Wydermyer caught eight passes for 89 yards.
The Aggies took a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter when Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain tipped the ball into the arms of tight end Wydermyer for a touchdown - instead of what could have been a game-changing interception.
"I didn't see the dude until the ball got there," Wydermyer said. "I saw it go right through his hands. I was like, Oh, I'll take that."
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he thought for a moment that McClain had an interception. "So it went from one extreme to the other," Malzahn said.
Then Ainias Smith followed his 37-yard catch with a 4-yard run into the end zone. Auburn couldn't muster any late offense or defensive stops after winning the past three meetings.
Bo Nix had a highlight reel play on one of his two touchdown runs for Auburn, but also overthrew a wide-open Eli Stove in the end zone.
After a 28-yard completion and a 20-yard scramble, Nix escaped the grasp of 325-pound defensive tackle Bobby Brown and appeared about to go down. Then he scrambled left and barreled into the end zone.
He said it was an RPO that took longer to develop, allowing the Aggies to get pressure.
"And just instinctively tried to avoid a sack and then kind of got out in the middle in the open and saw a bunch of my guys ready to go block," said Nix, who passed for 144 yards and ran for 49. "And they did a great job of just leading the way for me, and I found the end zone."
Both quarterbacks ran for touchdowns late in the second quarter, but Mond struck last on a quarterback sneak with 24 seconds left for a 14-10 halftime lead.
The Aggies ran for a season-high 313 yards and held a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.
"It was pretty simple," Malzahn said. "We couldn't stop them."
Texas A&M: Got the offense untracked early after a rough outing against LSU even if it didn't result in many first-half points. Mond was 11 of 34 for 105 yards in the last game, but completed his first eight passes this time. Had a whopping 29 first downs.
Auburn: Was outgained 168-21 in the fourth quarter. Defense gave up seven third-down conversions in 11 chances.
Mond joined Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott as the only quarterbacks in SEC history to record over 9,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in their careers. He went over the rushing mark with a key third-and-9 run late in the game.
The Aggies are still in the thick of the playoff race. The Tigers fell short of the kind of win that would have let them climb back into the Top 25.
Texas A&M is scheduled to visit Tennessee on Dec. 12.
Auburn is scheduled to play Mississippi State in Starkville on Dec. 12, trying to secure a winning season.