'Statement Game': Auburn takes dramatic win over Aggies

By Charles Goldberg

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Tre Mason and Auburn wanted to send a message.

Message sent. Message received. Auburn's 45-41 victory over No. 7 Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on Saturday said the Tigers are back from last year's lost season and will be on the rise in the national polls Sunday.

"This is a statement game, and the statement we wanted to put across was that we're coming," Mason said. "It's just getting better from here on out."

It was everything that was promised. Wild and crazy and with plenty of yards, as in 1,217 yards. Auburn had 615 of those, 379 of them rushing. Mason scored the winner of a 5-yard runner, stretching the final inches to get the call.

Auburn improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference, a year after stumbling to a 3-9 overall record and an 0-8 mark in the league. Not this year. Auburn and Texas A&M lived up to the promise of an offensive show, with Mason scoring the game-winner with 1:19 remaining, and with Texas A&M getting as close as the Auburn 18 before Dee Ford sacked Manziel twice.

Johnny Manziel's last-ditch play? A 22-yard loss.
"I had confidence in my defense. You've got to believe to achieve. We did that and came out with a great win," Mason said.
Auburn outscored A&M 21-10 in the fourth quarter.

"The great thing is we play a lot of guys, and I think that made a big difference in the fourth quarter," said coach Gus Malzahn. "I think we were a little bit faster than they were and they were a little bit slower right there."

The game was one of several SEC Saturday upsets. Malzahn was not boasting about his after the game.

"We've not arrived yet," he said. "We'll look back at the end of the year and we'll figure everything out."

It was a game of huge stats. Mason rushed for 178 yards. Nick Marshall passed for 236, ran for 100 more and accounted for four touchdowns. Sammie Coates had five catches for 104 yards and a TD.

Oh, Manziel threw for a ton. He hit 28-of-38 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns, all to Mike Evans, who had a staggering 287 yards receiving.

It wasn't enough. Manziel hurt his shoulder in the fourth quarter, missed a series and came back to for more yards. But two too many sacks.

" It's mental at that point. It's, 'Who's going to quit first.' I just kept going, kept fighting. The whole team kept fighting," Ford said.
Ford is a senior who could have taken his game to the NFL after year's disappointing record. He didn't. He said he wanted to be a part of a turnaround.

"I said these are the same guys, different circumstances," he said. "It was beyond football with the losses, and how bad we lost. It was a mental thing. It wasn't a physical thing. That was one of the main reasons why I came back, to enjoy, to reap the benefits of the same players that we're winning with. I think people see now that it's a new day, we have a new opportunities, we have grown men and we know how to face adversity. We came up with a big win."

Marshall matched Manziel, despite the fact he didn't play in the last game with a knee injury.

Cameron Artis-Payne gave Auburn a 38-34 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:06 remaining. But Manziel came back from a shoulder injury and scored a go-ahead touchdown with five minutes remaining.
The craziness started early.

There were plenty of points in the first half. There were lots more yards. The two teams combined for 78 plays for a staggering 612 yards. A&M overcame a 17-14 second-quarter lead to take a 24-17 halftime advantage.

The Manziel-to-Evans combination hit for two touchdowns early, and then hit again with 24 seconds left for the halftime lead. But a 7-point deficit didn't seem too bad for Auburn, considering the Aggies held a 42-7 lead in the first half in 2012.

A&M's first-half scoring came on big plays: Evans scored on a 26-yard pass, a 64-yard pass and a 42-yard pass. Josh Lambo kicked a 37-yard field goal for good measure.

Marshall scored on a 16-yard run and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Quan Bray. Cody Parkey kicked a 27-yard field goal.

Auburn came back in the third quarter when Marshall threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Coates, just before Manziel threw his fourth touchdown to Evans.

The fourth quarter went like this a 20-yard A&M field goal, a 13-yard Marshall TD, Artis-Payne's 2-yard TD run, a Manziel 1-yard run and the winner, coming from Mason for 5.
Game winner.