Given the way Auburn has won games since the 2013 season started, it's only fitting that a loss to potentially knock them out of the College Football Playoff would be incredibly wacky too.
Auburn fumbled twice in the last three minutes of the game while trailing by three to Texas A&M and lost 41-38 Saturday for its second defeat of the season.
In 2013, Auburn won games via a tipped deep pass on fourth down against Georgia (the Prayer at Jordan-Hare) and a missed field goal return for a touchdown (the Kick Six) against Alabama. Last week, the Tigers beat Ole Miss after Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell fumbled just inches from the goal line as he was tackled awkwardly and broke his leg.
Saturday, Auburn was the team that fumbled close to their opponent's end zone. With just over 2:45 to go near the A&M one-yard-line, Auburn ran an option play, a staple of its offense. Quarterback Nick Marshall put the ball in running back Cameron Artis-Payne's stomach and, if the defense collapsed towards Artis-Payne, had the option of taking it back.
Marshall read it that way, and wanted the football back. But in the split second, Artis-Payne thought he was keeping the ball. As neither player let go the ball floated in the air and fell to the turf. While it looked like Artis-Payne initially fell on the ball, Texas A&M came away with the ball underneath the pile.
Auburn forced a Texas A&M punt – and nearly got a safety on third down – and had one more chance to tie or take the lead with just over a minute left.
Disaster struck again.
After Auburn got a first down, the Tigers hurried to the line. Marshall went to change the play and walked toward the line of scrimmage. As he was doing so, center Reese Dismukes snapped the ball. Marshall wasn't expecting it and it bounced off his leg. Texas A&M recovered again. Ballgame.
After trailing 35-17 at halftime, the Tigers fought their way back into the game and it seemed inevitable that they were going to somehow pull out the victory.
Auburn continued to cut into the Texas A&M lead in the fourth quarter and trimmed the deficit to 41-38 after a long pass set up a touchdown run by Marshall. Even after the option fumble, Auburn fans had to like the Tigers' chances with possession at midfield and 1:37 left.
Instead, the team again fumbled it away.
Did the loss cost the Tigers a spot in the College Football Playoff too? After losing to the Tigers last week, Ole Miss fell from No. 4 to No. 11. While there will be at least two fewer one-loss teams for Auburn to drop below after Saturday, the Tigers will likely land somewhere between Nos. 8-10.
They will also need some help to win the SEC. Auburn is now tied for third in the SEC West with Ole Miss and two games behind Mississippi State. Barring a barrage of upsets, Auburn's chances of a second straight SEC championship and chance to play for the national title are very slim.
But as the Tigers continue to show us, crazy things can and do happen.
For more Auburn news, visit AuburnSports.com
For more Texas A&M news, visit AggieYell.com
- - - - - - -