Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining five takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are his Postgame Points from the Auburn game.
1. A Chance To Win
Ole Miss dropped a close 20-14 contest to the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. With the loss, Ole Miss is 3-6 (2-4 SEC) and tied for fifth place in the SEC West heading into the final stretch of the 2019 season. Auburn moves to 7-2 (4-2 SEC) and sits at third in the SEC West behind LSU and Alabama.
The Rebels put up a valiant effort against the Tigers. The young Ole Miss team fought until the very end, took advantage of some Auburn miscues, and made enough key plays on both sides of the ball to keep this game close for sixty minutes. The Rebel defense kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and got the ball back for the offense with just over a minute to play and a chance to win the game.
That is the opportunity every team wants to have with the game on the line. The defense did its part, and the offense drove down the field to get into scoring position before a last-gasp interception ended the game. There are no moral victories in college football, but the Rebels played their hearts out against a Top 25 team in a hostile environment and had a shot to win the game in the final seconds.
2. Running Strong
Ole Miss relied on its strong running game to find success against a very talented Auburn defense that ranks among the best in the SEC and in the country. The Rebels rushed the ball 42 times for 167 yards and 2 touchdowns and averaged 4 yards per run for the game. Ole Miss picked up 9 first downs running the ball, and all fourteen Rebel points came on the ground courtesy of touchdown runs by Snoop Conner and John Rhys Plumlee.
Plumlee was the top Rebel runner against Auburn with 92 yards. Fellow freshman Jerrion Ealy rushed for 44 yards, and both Snoop Conner and Matt Corral contributed 20 yards apiece. The four freshmen combined for all but 4 rushing yards by Ole Miss, with Scottie Phillips gaining those yards on his lone carry before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
The freshmen showed a lot of potential and poise running the ball against one of the nation’s top defensive units. The only team to run for more yards against Auburn this season was No. 2 LSU (187) in its win over Auburn the previous weekend.
3. Defending the Run
Ole Miss did an excellent job of defending the run against No. 11 Auburn on Saturday. The Rebels held the Tigers to 167 yards on the ground. Auburn ran the ball 46 times and averaged 3.6 yards per run for the game.
The only teams this year to limit Auburn to less than 167 rushing yards were No. 2 LSU (130) and No. 10 Florida (124), the two teams who have beaten Auburn. So, the Ole Miss defense followed that recipe and held the Tigers in check on the ground. The result was that Ole Miss kept the game close all night and had a chance to win the game in the final minutes.
4. Turnover Battle
The turnover battle is always a key statistic to watch in any college football game. The team that wins the turnover battle often wins the game. In the case of an underdog like Ole Miss going up against Auburn, getting more takeaways can help the underdog stay in the game and have a shot at pulling off an upset.
The final statistics say that each team had a turnover in this game. Ole Miss got a fumble recovery by Qaadir Sheppard in the first quarter on a botched handoff by Auburn. However, the Rebels went nearly the entire sixty minutes of action without a turnover. The lone turnover by Ole Miss came on an interception on the game’s last play.
The Ole Miss defense pitched a shutout against No. 11 Auburn in two different quarters on Saturday. The only other opponent to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard in two separate quarters this year was No. 10 Florida during a 24-13 win over Auburn in Gainesville in October.
By preventing the Tigers from putting up any points in the first quarter, Ole Miss kept the game close. The heavily-favored Tigers found themselves with a slim 10-7 lead at halftime. Underdogs gain confidence and begin to believe they can pull the upset the longer they keep the game close. The Rebels went into the second half knowing they had a real shot to knock off the Tigers.
Auburn was able to increase its lead to 20-7 after three periods of play and seemed to be on the verge of putting the game out of reach. Then the defense held strong and kept the Tigers from getting any more points. Meanwhile, Ole Miss marched 91 yards in 15 plays and pulled to within 20-14 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Snoop Conner.
When the defense forced another missed field goal attempt by Auburn with just over a minute left in the game, the Rebels had the ball back with a chance to complete the comeback. Ultimately, Ole Miss drove down the field before an interception on the final play ended the game.
Ole Miss returns home to face 0-8 New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels and Aggies met in 2015 in Oxford in the only meeting on the gridiron between these two schools. Ole Miss came away with a 52-3 victory in that contest.