Rapid Reaction: No. 11 Auburn edges Ole Miss
Auburn needed something to right itself after 2 painful losses in the past 3 weeks to No. 10 Florida and No. 2 LSU kicked the Tigers out of the national championship picture.
Enter the Ole Miss Rebels — the cure for what ails you in the SEC.
No. 11 Auburn beat up on Ole Miss all night, piling up the offense (more than 500 yards) and — despite a banged-up defense — squeezing the life out of Rebels offense en route to a 20-14 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Bo Nix passed for 340 yards and ran for a touchdown
Auburn improved to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC West and Ole Miss fell to 3-6, 2-4.
It was figured that Auburn might be somewhat vulnerable defensively without defensive end Marlon Davidson (back), who started 47 straight games before Saturday night, and defensive back Jeremiah Dinson (virus).
But Ole Miss leveled the injury playing field early, as right guard Ben Brown and running back Scottie Phillips left the game with ankle injuries on the Rebels’ 1st drive.
Auburn’s first crack at the football was helped by a failed Ole Miss 4th-down attempt on the Rebels’ 1st possession, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 42. Auburn drove within field-goal range, but Anders Carlson missed just his 3rd field attempt in 13 tries in 2019 when he hooked a 42-yarder to keep it scoreless.
After another Ole Miss possession came up empty, Auburn went back to work. True freshman quarterback Bo Nix hit Anthony Schwartz for 50 yards to eventually set up Carlson again. This time the kicker pushed a 49-yard attempt that would have been a season long.
Both teams sputtered through the remainder of the 1st quarter before Auburn finally solved the Ole Miss defense midway through the 2nd quarter. After Auburn recovered a fumble inside the 5, the 3rd time was a charm for Carlson as he nailed a 20-yarder to make it 3-0 Tigers.
As Auburn’s defense continued to pitch a shutout, its offense finally found the end zone on its next possession. Nix connected with Harold Joiner on a 78-yard pass down to the Ole Miss 1, and D.J. Williams punched it in from there for a 10-0 lead.
Although Ole Miss is one of the worst punt return teams in the country (1.3 yards per return, with only Air Force and Texas worse), the Rebels uncorked a long one with just over 1 minute to play in the first half. Elijah Moore returned a Arryn Siposs punt 55 yards to the Auburn 23. From there, QB John Rhys Plumlee went around left end for 9 yards, Snoop Conner burst up the middle for 10 and Plumlee finished it off with a 4-yard TD scramble to make it 10-7.
With boos cascading from Jordan-Hare Stadium as the Tigers took a 3-point lead into the break, it was a wonder Ole Miss was as close as it was. Auburn outgained the Rebels 315 yards to 129 and had more than double the yards per play at that point — 7.0 to 3.4.
Auburn extended its lead to begin the 3rd quarter, as Nix punctuated a 13-play, 54-yard drive that took 4:43 off the clock with a 1-yard dive for a 17-7 lead.
After yet another Ole Miss 3-and-out, Auburn ground out another scoring drive — moving all the way to the Rebels 10 before stalling and settling for a 38-yard Carlson field goal to make it 20-7.
Auburn’s defense continued to stifle the Rebels, as only a pair of Plumlee scrambles on Ole Miss’ ensuing drive dented the Tigers before they forced another punt. In all, Ole Miss only had the ball for 3:47 of the 3rd quarter’s 15 minutes and gained just 23 yards in the period.
Just as Ole Miss wouldn’t have been blamed for packing it in and heading back to The Grove, the Rebels offense flickered to life midway through the 4th quarter. Plumlee completed 4 passes for 33 yards and rushed 3 times for 10 yards (with Auburn being nicked twice for personal-foul penalties trying to haul Plumlee down) to drive into the red zone. Finally, 5 plays later, Conner banged it in from 1 yard out to make it 20-14.
On Auburn’s final drive Nix hit Anthony Schwartz on a critical pass to convert on third down, but Carlson missed his third field goal of the game from 49 yards with 1:14 left, giving the Rebels one last chance.
Plumlee drove Ole Miss down to the Auburn 35 in the waning seconds but the Tigers picked off his desperation pass and ran out the clock on the return.
Nix had just his second 300-plus-yard effort of the season (16-of-21 for 335 yards against Mississippi State on Sept. 28).
Auburn gets a week off before entering the second grueling part of its schedule — playing No. 8 Georgia at home on Nov. 16. Then after a home breather against Samford, Auburn hosts No. 2 Alabama for the annual Iron Bowl.
Ole Miss will need to win out to earn bowl eligibility, and begins that trek next week back in Oxford against New Mexico State. The week after is no picnic, though, as the Rebels welcome No. 1 LSU before finishing the season with the annual Egg Bowl Nov. 28 at Mississippi State.