COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Jarrett Stidham threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns as No. 16 Auburn pulled away in the second half and cruised to a 42-27 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
Kerryon Johnson added 145 yards rushing and a touchdown and provided a highlight-reel play with a nifty one-handed catch for an 11-yard gain on third down in the fourth to keep a drive going.
“He’s a special player and the special players they feel it when the game’s on the line,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
Eli Stove capped that possession with a 4-yard touchdown run that pushed the lead to 42-20 to put the game out of reach.
Auburn (7-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) led by eight at halftime and made it 28-13 when Stidham connected with Ryan Davis on a 4-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter.
The Aggies (5-4, 3-3) were forced to punt on their next drive and Shane Tripucka, who had a punt blocked for a touchdown in the first half, didn’t get this one off cleanly either and it went just 16 yards to give Auburn good field position.
Malzahn thought that the blocked punt for a touchdown was one of the most important plays of the game.
“It changed the whole momentum of the game going into halftime,” he said of the play that put the Tigers up 21-13.
Darius Slayton beat A&M’s defenders for the second time soon after that, and Stidham found him for a 46-yard reception to set up a 2-yard TD run by Johnson to extend the lead to 35-13.
Coach Kevin Sumlin benched freshman quarterback Kellen Mond in the second quarter after went 5 for 11 for 16 yards. Nick Starkel, who opened the season as the starter before breaking his ankle in the opener, took over and threw for 184 yards and two scores.
“It was time to give somebody else a chance and I think Nick took advantage of that today,” Sumlin said.
Starkel found Damion Ratley for a 62-yard catch and run with about six minutes left in the third to cut the lead to 35-20. Armani Watts blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt to give the Aggies the ball back late in the third quarter. Ratley finished with 82 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The Aggies got down to the 4-yard line on the ensuing drive, but Auburn got the ball back when Starkel’s pass on fourth down bounced incomplete well short of Christian Kirk.
AUBURN: The Tigers handled business against unranked Texas A&M, but will need to improve and limit big plays if they hope to compete against No. 2 Georgia next week and top-ranked Alabama later this month.
TEXAS A&M: Sumlin said that Starkel “earned his spot back” on Saturday and will start next week for A&M. He said Saturday was the first day that Starkel seemed like he was back to form after recovering from his ankle injury.
AUBURN: The Tigers host Georgia next Saturday.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies take a break from SEC play when they host New Mexico next Saturday before traveling to Mississippi on Nov. 18.
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