OXFORD, Miss. – Fresh off an emotional win over Arkansas, Ole Miss entered Saturday’s game against Auburn with high hopes for a second-straight SEC victory. However, it was not to be as the Rebels became their own worst enemy against the Tigers.
Auburn took advantage of Ole Miss mistakes to beat the Rebels 31-16 on a dreary day at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
(Click here for box score.)
The Rebels committed a laundry list of miscues. Ole Miss surrendered a blocked field goal, failed on a pair of fourth-down attempts, gave up five sacks, was flagged for six penalties – most of which occurred at crucial times – reached the red zone four times but only scored one touchdown and missed enough tackles that the defensive film room will not be a happy place when the coaches see the videotape.
“The two things that stick in my mind right now is we were not physical on defense; I want to see more physicality on defense because when you’re more physical, you stop the run and get some turnovers and there were too many missed tackles, too many leaky yardage and we came out of the ballgame and didn’t have a takeaway,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said.
“You can’t play in the SEC and win a ballgame and not have any takeaways and not play physical.”
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff
The Rebels (5-3, 1-3 in the SEC) opened the game with an efficient drive, but it stalled on the Auburn 23. Luke Logan lined up to attempt a 40-yard field goal, but Marlon Davidson got penetration through the middle of the Ole Miss line and blocked the kick.
Auburn (5-3, 2-3) took over and drove 77 yards in 11 plays to a 3-yard scoring pass from Jarrett Stidham to JaTarvious Whitlow to put the Tigers up 7-0.
Logan redeemed himself by nailing a 36-yard field goal to get the Rebels on the scoreboard late in the first quarter and he hit a 37-yarder in the second period to cut the Auburn lead to 7-6. The Tigers added a field goal of their own just before halftime to take a 10-6 advantage at the break.
Auburn was not a well-oiled machine in the first half. Its lead should have been more comfortable, but Tiger receivers dropped two passes in the end zone that would have been easy touchdowns.
In the third quarter, Auburn blew the game open.
The Tigers scored three touchdowns in the quarter and dominated Ole Miss in every way possible. Auburn amassed 228 yards in the period and held the Rebels to 78, including bottling up Ole Miss’ rushing game. The Rebels had minus-9 yards rushing in the third and suddenly found themselves trailing 31-9 after Logan made his third field goal of the game.
“We did a good job in he first half, and you can’t come out in the second half and give up those two explosive plays,” McGriff said. “If you take those plays out, we’re still in the ballgame.”
Auburn used a 54-yard run by Whitlow and a 62-yard reception by Seth Williams to pull away from the Rebels in the third quarter.
Ole Miss finally got into the end zone with 2:24 left in the game. The Rebels mounted their best drive of the game, traveling 82 yards in 15 plays and scoring on a 12-yard strike from Jordan Ta’amu to A.J. Brown to provide the 31-16 final score.
“The main story of the day is pretty obvious, when you get in the red zone you have got to find a way to score a touchdown. Also, I thought that our inability to run the football really hurt us at times. Give Auburn a lot of credit; they are really good on defense.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on the loss to Auburn
Ta’amu looked good at times as he completed 27-of-46 for 324 yards and a touchdown. Ten of those completions went to Brown who gained 155 yards. Scottie Phillips had a team-high 59 yards rushing.
Defensively, Mohamad Sonogo collected 16 tackles.
Ole Miss now uses next week’s bye to try to heal up after the Rebels have been hit with a variety of injuries. The Rebels return to the field Nov. 3 when they host South Carolina.