COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No. 24 Auburn didn’t win a single Southeastern Conference game last season.
So no one could blame running back Tre Mason for shedding a few tears as the final seconds ticked in the Tigers’ 45-41 upset of No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday.
“Those were tears of happiness,” he said. “We did something a lot of people didn’t think we could do.”
Nick Marshall accounted for four scores and Auburn battered Johnny Manziel in the victory. Last season the Aggies beat Auburn 63-21.
Mason’s 5-yard score with less than 2 minutes to play was first placed at the 1, but it was reviewed and ruled a touchdown.
“Our plan was to be in the game at halftime and wear them down in the second half,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “I think for the most part it worked.”
A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) had a last chance, but Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, was sacked by Dee Ford on fourth down to secure the win.
“We didn’t make enough plays at the end of the day,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We had our opportunities — couldn’t make a play.”
Manziel threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a fifth score, but was intercepted twice. He missed a series in the fourth quarter with an injury to his right shoulder. He returned but was constantly moving his right arm. Sumlin didn’t provide any details on the injury after the game, but said Manziel told him he was “ready to go.”
Marshall threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 100 yards and two more scores for Auburn (6-1, 3-1).
Texas A&M’s Mike Evans had a school-record 287 yards receiving with four touchdowns to become the first player in school history to have two, 200-yard receiving games in a career. He scored on receptions of 26, 64, 42 and 33 yards.
Manziel wasn’t made available to the media after the game, and the school said Evans refused to do interviews.
Auburn entered the game leading the SEC with 287 yards rushing a game and piled up 379 yards rushing against the Aggies. Mason led the way with 178 yards and Corey Grant added 45.
“That’s Auburn’s identity, tough, hard-nosed football,” Mason said. “We’re going to run the ball and if you can’t stop it, then oh well. We stuck to it. The O-line did great. They had great pressure up front and I had to do my job.”
Texas A&M’s inexperienced defense, which entered the game ranked in the bottom 25 in the country in yards allowed, continued to be a problem Saturday.
“In my career when you score 41 points you should win — end of story,” defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said.
Manziel connected with Evans for his fourth TD on a 33-yard pass — that Auburn was called for pass interference on — giving A&M a 31-24 lead late in the third quarter.
Manziel was injured when he was tackled on an 8-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
He got up after the tackle and then went to the ground before he reached the A&M sideline. A&M officials looked at him for a couple of minutes on the turf before he got up and walked off on his own power.
He was replaced by Matt Joeckel, who threw an incomplete pass on third down and A&M settled for a 20-yard field goal to push the lead to 34-24.
Marshall cut A&M’s lead to 3 when he ran 13 yards for a touchdown with about 12 minutes left.
Joeckel remained in for A&M’s next possession and the Aggies had to punt.
Cameron Artis-Payne put Auburn ahead 38-34 with a 2-yard run with about 9 minutes remaining. Tre Mason slashed through the line and ran 53 yards to set up the score.
Manziel returned and orchestrated a 75-yard drive capped by his 1-yard touchdown run to give A&M a 41-38 lead with about 5 minutes left.
Marshall found Sammie Coates on a screen pass and he coasted into the end zone untouched for a 43-yard touchdown to tie it at 24-24 in the third quarter.
Evans took a short pass from Manziel and darted through traffic for a 26-yard touchdown that gave A&M a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Tigers answered when Marshall ran 14 yards for a touchdown on Auburn’s first drive.
Auburn took a 10-7 lead on a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter after Manziel’s first interception.
Texas A&M’s next drive was a quick one. Evans grabbed an 11-yard pass before taking a short throw, getting free on a block by Malcome Kennedy and dashing 64 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that put A&M back on top 14-10.
The Tigers coughed the ball up on their next possession when Howard Matthews forced a fumble by Marshall which was recovered by Steven Jenkins.
But the Aggies weren’t able to take advantage of that miscue, with Manziel throwing another interception six plays later. He evaded three defenders before launching the pass into double coverage which was intercepted just in front of the goal line by Ryan White.
Marshall escaped the rush and found Quan Bray in the end zone for the 13-yard touchdown that gave Auburn a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter.
A&M tied it with a 37-yard field goal by Josh Lambo.
The Aggies regained the lead just before halftime when Evans scored again. This time he pulled in a short pass, juked a defender and then stiff-armed another before diving into the pylon for a 42-yard touchdown to make it 24-17.