Rapid Reaction: Auburn pulls out thriller on the road against Ole Miss
Here are some quick thoughts on Auburn’s 35-31 win at Ole Miss.
What it means: Auburn (7-1, 4-1) entered the game with talk of its impossible schedule acting as a governor on any discussion of the Tigers in the playoffs. But Auburn now is 1-1 in brutal road games with two remaining (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama). The Auburn offense has returned to its 2013 form after coach Gus Malzahn appeared determined to force more of a passing game early in the season. The defense, though, remains a major concern.
What I liked: Auburn beat the No. 4 team in the nation on the road and guaranteed itself a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff again this Tuesday. The vaunted offense totaled 502 yards against the Landshark defense some consider the best in the country. The defense got two red zone takeaways late in the fourth quarter. This was a tremendous win for the team on the Plains. Sammie Coates finally came through in the second half with some huge catches.
What I didn’t like: The Rebels lost two red zone fumbles late in the fourth quarter. Laquon Treadwell appeared to break his ankle on what seemed like the go-ahead touchdown with 90 seconds left. But a replay review changed the call to a fumble, which Auburn recovered. The Tigers gave up 486 total yards of offense to Bo Wallace, two 100-yard receivers and committed 13 penalties.
Who’s the man: Nick Marshall. He threw for 254 yards, ran for 50 and accounted for four total touchdowns against a stout Ole Miss defense. His orchestration of the Malzahn offense was beautiful.
Key play: Stretching for a first down in the red zone, Wallace fumbled. Derrick Moncrief forced it and Kris Frost recovered. Until that point, it appeared the team with the ball last would win. But the turnover changed the complexion of the game, forcing Ole Miss to enter comeback mode.
What’s next: Auburn hosts Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies have a three-game SEC losing streak and allowed huge chunks of yards to Rice (481) and Mississippi State (559), both teams that employ the read option. The Tigers topped 600 yards against A&M last year. It’s a good spot for Auburn.