No. 19 Ole Miss defeats Auburn 27-19 on the road
Auburn, Ala.– Led by its usual cadre of star players, Ole Miss was up for a challenge on the road and came away with a victory in a must-win game over a Southeastern Conference opponent Saturday.
Chad Kelly threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns, one to Laquon Treadwell in the final quarter, as No. 19 Ole Miss (7-2, 4-1) was able to hold off Auburn, 27-19, on Halloween afternoon inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Rebels now have their second-consecutive 4-1 start in the SEC and just the third time in the last 25 years.
Ole Miss has defeated Alabama and Auburn in the same season for the first time since 2003–and has beaten both on the road for the first time ever.
“I’m really proud of our kids; they stayed the course,” said Freeze, who’s 2-2 as the Rebels’ head coach against the Tigers.
Auburn was able to hold a high-powered Ole Miss offense to three points in the first quarter, and then was able to limit the explosive plays of the Rebels’ offense–for a while, at least. The Tigers found some defensive success because of their front seven, which was able to disrupt Kelly on many of the snaps. Auburn registered four tackles for losses and one sack on the day.
Kelly threw two interceptions-one of them came off the chest of Evan Engram-but the Ole Miss quarterback delivered a deep, left end zone touchdown pass to Treadwell, who hauled in the 21-yard pass to create some breathing room for the Rebels. Up until the dagger from Treadwell, Ole Miss found itself in a tight game.
“I just think I made a play when it came to me,” Treadwell said. “They were moving coverages, trying to take me out of the game. The coaches ran the ball, ran the ball, ran the ball. We got one high and we took a chance and I made a play.”
Early in the first quarter, Kelly mishandled the football on an option play and Auburn was all over it. However, it was the Rebels who struck first on the scoreboard with Gary Wunderlich’s 27-yard field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead over Auburn.
The Tigers then used a short 4-play, 4-yard drive to even the score off a 52-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.
Things then got interesting early in the second quarter, when Auburn’s quarterback Sean White found wide-open Ricardo Louis for the 47-yard touchdown. The Tigers went up 10-3 and had all of the momentum until Ole Miss balanced things out with a 25-yard TD run by Akeem Judd, who bounced off two tackles as he made his way into the end zone.
Judd averaged 6.8 yards per carry on eight attempts to go along with his 54 yards.
Both offenses had trouble with consistency at times, and each team traded big defensive stops after another. The Rebels were their own worst enemy at times, damaging their offensive consistency with penalties. For the game, Ole Miss finished with seven penalties for 40 yards.
Kelly and White each threw interceptions, but were able to lead their offenses to the 10-10 tie at halftime. White completed 12 of 28 passes for 258 yards.
“He practiced just a little bit on Tuesday and his knee swelled up. He didn’t practice any of the rest of the week,” Auburn’s coach Gus Malzahn said about White, who was banged up coming in Saturday’s game. “We didn’t know if he was going to be good to go until pre-game, but he is a champion. He’s not 100 percent, but he stayed in there and fought.”
Second half surge
The Rebels broke the tie early in the third quarter, off a 37-yard field goal from Wunderlich. Kelly’s 15-yard pass to Engram and Treadwell’s 21-yard left sideline pass-one he had to scramble for- to Jaylen Walton set up Wunderlich’s second made field goal of the afternoon.
Treadwell finished the game with seven receptions for 114 yards.
Ole Miss led 13-10, with the notion of putting the game away. The Rebels were in the red zone on 4th and 1 after Kelly’s 7-yard pass to Quincy Adeboyejo fell short of the first down. Freeze felt an itch to go for it; however, with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter, his quarterback was stopped short of the first by Cassanova McKinzy and Devaroe Lawrence.
The stop re-energized a Tigers’ offense that was looking for another big play, outside of Louis’ 47-yard TD score from the first half. Carlson’s 23-yard field goal had the game tied once more at 13-13 with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
But Ole Miss’ next drive quickly dampened the intensity of the War Eagle cheers, when Kelly connected with Derrick Jones for the 45-yard TD reception. Jones split two defenders after the catch to stomp his way into end zone for his second collegiate touchdown.
“I was like no matter what, I’m going to get into the end zone,” Jones said with a big grin. “When he put me in, I knew I had a double move, so I was like ‘I have to bait him in.’ So, once I baited him in, it was pretty much easy, just catch it and score.”
The Rebels were up 20-13, but the team, as a whole, stumbled just a bit after taking the seven-point lead. Kris Frost picked off Kelly, and the defensive effort was followed by a 44-yard bomb from Jeremy Johnson to Tony Stevens.
However, the Landshark defense kept Auburn (4-4, 1-4) from getting into the end zone, forcing them to settle for Carlson’s 33-yard and 26-yard field goals to get within one. The Tigers were a dismal 2 -for-15 on third downs.
“Our guys fought and we had a few chances down there at the end, but just didn’t get it done,” Malzahn said. “I give Ole Miss credit. They are one of the better teams in the country and they have a lot of talent.”
Hugh Freeze was understandably pleased with his team’s win on the road. “It was a big SEC fist-fight,” he said. “I don’t really care about stats. Just winning the game, it makes the ride home a lot sweeter.”
Feature image credit: Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics