Defense stiffens in second half, but Rebels fall to Auburn 31-20
Ole Miss’ winning streak came to an end Saturday night in Auburn as the Rebels fell to the Tigers, 31-20.
Ole Miss was held to three points in the second half, with three drives that ended in a turnover on downs due to failed fourth down attempts in the red zone.
The Rebel defense gave their offense a chance, holding Auburn to only three points in the second half after giving up 28 in the first half.
Coach Kiffin’s Opening Statement
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin talked with media after the game. “Hats off to Auburn,” he began. “They played really tough and it’s a very tough environment to play in. The crowd was great,” he added.
“Bo [Nix] made a lot of plays, especially early on. I thought our defense, after struggling early, played exceptionally well. They gave us a bunch of chances offensively to win. We don’t make three fourth downs in the red zone and throw another interception, so that’s four times in the red zone with no points. That’s going to be hard to win. To be in an 11-point game with that says you must be doing something right on the other side of the ball, which we did on defense.”
Red Zone Woes
Entering the game, Ole Miss was coming away with points on 85% of its trips to red zone and scoring a touchdown on 72% of those trips. In the second half versus Auburn, however, that was not the case.
Saturday against the Tigers, Ole Miss was three-for-three in the red zone in the first half — but just one-for-five in the second half.
“They (Auburn) did a good job, but it wasn’t any special or good defense or anything. When you get in the red zone, space tightens down. If you’re not running the ball well, you’re going to have tight windows. You’ve got to make big plays and we didn’t do that. Obviously, you can sit here and say we should’ve kicked field goals, but we made a lot of those. Converted more than anybody in the country. When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin on the red zone issues
Rebels’ quarterback Matt Corral also spoke on the offense’s red zone issues, taking responsibility for the misses.
“There were multiple instances where it was just me being me. Not going through my progression, it is coming back on me,” said Corral. “There was one where we had Dannis (Jackson) open on a little pop, I threw it when he wasn’t looking. If he wasn’t looking that’s fine, just get to my next progression. If I got to my next progression, I would’ve had JR (John Rhys Plumlee) on a touchdown,” he added.
Corral threw what was just his second interception of the season on the Rebels’ next-to-last drive after a missed field goal attempt by the Tigers.
Corral talked about that interception saying, “(I was trying to) throw it to Pearson. He was wide open. I just waited too long.”
The Ole Miss QB finished the game completing 21-of-37 attempted passes for 289 yards. He rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.
The Ole Miss defense was phenomenal in the second half, only allowing Auburn to notch three points. The unit held the Tigers scoreless on their first three drives in the third quarter and gave the offense a chance to make a comeback.
On Auburn’s fourth drive of the half, they would score their only points in the half with a field goal. On the ensuing drive, the Ole Miss defense created a turnover, thanks to a fumble forced by Deantre Prince and recovered by Chance Campbell.
Deantre Prince forcing the huge fumble. Campbell recovers. Ole Miss ball on the their own 47 pic.twitter.com/Nf9VIs46W5
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 31, 2021
“We just did what we were supposed to do.” Campbell said of the defense’s performance in the second half.
“We didn’t have any new calls, any new schemes. We just played the way we were supposed to, it’s a shame we didn’t in the first half.”
Linebacker Chance Campbell
In the first half, the Rebels allowed Auburn to convert three of five third downs and score a touchdown all four times they were in the red zone.
“I thought we played well by tackling.” Kiffin said of the second-half defense. “Bo (Nix) keeps drives alive, as you’ve seen like the LSU game. You can play good defense and be right there but you can’t tackle the guy. That happened to us early on. When he does that, they’re long sacks if you make them. He was getting out of them but then we started making some of them.”
In the second quarter of the game, Matt Corral went down with injury after an Auburn defender fell awkwardly on the QB’s ankle. He was down for some time and in obvious pain. Corral was helped off the field and taken to the medical tent on the sideline before eventually being taken off the field on a cart to undergo an x-ray.
True freshman Luke Altmyer went in and calmly went 5-for-5 as he kept the Ole Miss drive alive.
Minutes later, Corral came jogging back onto the sideline, appearing ready to play. He got his ankle taped up and before long was back in the game.
“I thought the way he came off that it was really bad, like, broken,” Coach Kiffin said.
“So, I kind of had already gone to that place. I was surprised he came back, especially came back to have some movement skill. Which was awesome. I was in the tank. Anytime something like that happens, you’re like, ‘Well, we should’ve had a better play on the first down where he got hit or injured.’ It was obviously good to have him back in there.”
Corral in for six. pic.twitter.com/pk6JPmTupp
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 31, 2021
Corral talked about what happened on the play. “I couldn’t feel it in my ankle,” he said of when he went down. “(I) heard it pop. Got an x-ray. Told them if nothing was broken, I was going back in.”
It was evident after his touchdown run that Corral was more than able to play. Had he not been able to perform and give his team its best chance to win, he wouldn’t have come back in the game.
“That’s not an excuse. If I was out there, I should be able to execute. If I physically cannot do it, I shouldn’t have been out there but, I was able to do it. The plays I usually make… I just missed. I blame myself this loss is on me.”
With that said, Corral gave a heck of an effort and showed grit coming back in the game. As the leader of his team, he is to be admired for the guts he shows week in and week out.
Back to Work
In November, the Rebels begin with three home games in a row. They start with Liberty next weekend, and then host Texas A&M and finish the homestand with Vanderbilt. The Rebels finish the month traveling to Starkville to play for the Golden Egg on Thanksgiving day.
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss alum with a degree in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.