No. 16 Texas A&M gains momentum for bigger SEC West games with near-perfect rout of Auburn
AUBURN, Ala. – Texas A&M's dominant 63-21 win over Auburn on Saturday night was close to perfect: No turnovers, a measly three penalties, only one punt and plenty of highlights from Johnny Manziel.
The Aggies moved up six spots to No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday. They are proving that in their first season in the Southeastern Conference they can make an impact in the Western Division race in November.
The lopsided win over Auburn was the perfect warm-up for more difficult games to come.
Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) plays at No. 17 Mississippi State this week, followed by a game at No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10.
Manziel and the starters built a big lead and then sat out most of the second half.
"I think we've been close the last couple of weeks," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We've been having penalties on offense and defense. Offensively, we had turned the ball over too much. There are a lot more things that we control than people believe. Every week we need to deal with ourselves before we deal with the opponent."
The Aggies overwhelmed lowly Auburn (1-7, 0-6 SEC). The next two weeks will be more important indicators of how Texas A&M's season will be defined.
The Aggies already have two close losses to ranked SEC teams, a 24-19 loss at LSU on Oct. 20 and a season-opening 20-17 loss to Florida.
Linebacker Jonathan Stewart said the Aggies didn't look past Auburn to the high-profile games the next two weeks.
"It was important, but we don't pay attention to the stretch, we paid attention to this one week," Stewart said. "We have the 24-hour rule. We'll enjoy this win for the plane ride back, and when we wake up in the morning we'll get ready for a very good Mississippi State team."
The Aggies' spread offense, led by Manziel's running and passing, executed as if performing against a scout team defense. On Manziel's eight possessions, Texas A&M produced seven touchdowns and a missed 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Manziel came back after halftime, led his final touchdown drive, and watched the remainder of the rout from the sideline.
The freshman with the catchy "Johnny Football" nickname completed 16 of 23 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns and had nine carries for 90 yards and three scores.
Sumlin said it was especially important Manziel moved past his three interceptions in last week's loss to LSU.
"I think the big difference between us tonight and the last couple of weeks is we took care of the football," Sumlin said. "When you're moving the chains and not giving the ball to the other team ... that' show you have this kind of success and you're able to score like that."
The Aggies' spread the offense around. Trey Williams ran for 109 yards with a touchdown. Christine Michael and Ben Malena combined for 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Ryan Swope had six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
"When everything is working it's hard to stop," said Swope of the offense. "We left a few plays on the field. That's the scary thing."
The defense had five sacks from five players and held Auburn without a first down in the opening quarter.
Sumlin couldn't have asked for more in the Aggies' first visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We're new to this league, we're in new environments playing different teams and we really have to stay focused one week at a time," he said.