AUBURN, Ala. -- Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is one of the most intimidating venues in college football. It’s been around for almost 100 years, but when Auburn comes to town this Saturday, it will mark the first time the Tigers have played in the “Home of the 12th Man.”
“I heard it’s extremely loud, and I’ve heard it’s one of the tougher places to play,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
It won’t be the first hostile environment Auburn has faced this season, though, as the Tigers’ lone loss came to LSU in Death Valley. It was a game to forget for Malzahn and his team.
Auburn received the ball first but trailed 14-0 within the first six minutes. They fumbled on each of their first two possessions, and LSU responded with two quick touchdowns. On eight first-half drives, Auburn punted four times, fumbled twice, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs. It didn’t help that it was pouring down rain.
“We didn’t handle ourself very well the last time, at least the first quarter,” Malzahn said. “We kind of got in a bind and played uphill for the rest of the game. I’ve got to believe that we’ll be more comfortable, and hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes twice.”
After the initial onslaught, Auburn was able to regroup and play much better in the second half against LSU. They scored touchdowns on three of their seven drives and had a chance to make it a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter.
Although they lost 35-21, Malzahn learned a lot about his team in Baton Rouge, La.
“Hopefully it has prepared us,” he said. “Obviously, LSU is a very tough place to play at night. I have heard nothing but great things about this environment. We will do everything we can at practice to simulate crowd noise, but there is nothing like the real thing when everything is going on. I would like to think, because of the experience we had at LSU, it helped us for this one.”
The players gained a lot from the LSU loss as well, specifically the ones who haven’t played as many games away from home.
"I think the experience kind of helped,” running back Corey Grant said. “The different elements that come with playing on the road in the SEC -- I think playing at LSU first is going to help out a lot going to College Station."
Since that trip to LSU, Auburn has gotten its edge back. After an off week, the Tigers upended Ole Miss, a top-25 team at the time. They blew out Western Carolina last week, and now they’re ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 12, 2011.
The players know that they’re going to have to bring that confidence with them to Texas A&M this weekend when they face Johnny Manziel and the Aggies.
“They'll have all the fan support and everything out there, but as a defensive player, we've got to feed off of each other as a defense,” cornerback Chris Davis said. “We're going to have to be our own crowd out there. We're going to have to celebrate with the player that makes plays on the team. We've just got to bring our own energy.”
For Auburn to get back to the championship level that Malzahn talked about when he took the job, the Tigers are going to have to win on the road. An upset on Saturday would be a good start.
“This is a big game that we can really make a statement to the world and make Auburn how it used to be,” Grant said.