After a grueling traveling affair, no games at home for a month, that saw the Auburn Tigers go down in an emotional loss to the LSU Tigers last week 23-20. They found themselves surrounded by familiar faces in familiar places. It seemed as if they didn’t know in which direction to go; thus, a slow start, perhaps they were waiting for tour guides after a no show they realized they were home and went marching for 160 total yards in the first quarter. There was no score, but at least they found the light switch.
Similar to a boxing match, the game began with the opponent’s jostling for position and feeling each other out. It was friendly hosting until KJ Britt delivered a bone-shaking hit to end the Ole Miss first drive. The Rebels came with malicious intent aggressively going for the line to gain on fourth down early but came up short. When you think of Auburn football strong defensive line play comes to mind, they didn’t disappoint.
Auburn stalled out twice, missing on two field goals of 42 and 49 yards. The first was wide left, and the second fell short on Anders Carlson. Bo Nix had a fumble near midfield, and the most exciting play was a 50-yard pass reception by Anthony Swartz.
Ole Miss found themselves on the wrong side of the bounce deep in the hole with their backs pressed up against the 11-yard line with the Tigers ready to feast. They put together a decent drive to get some breathing room, but they got a little fancy with a criss-cross motion play that saw the ball fumbling backward with a thirteen-yard loss.
Defensive lineman Derrick Brown ended any positive thoughts when he leveled running back Jerrion Ealy who tipped out on a little screenplay, to put it mildly, he is still trying to figure out from which direction the locomotive wearing number five came in destruction.
Auburn was first to the scoreboard, Anders Carlson found success on a 20-yard field goal to earn a three-point advantage. Midway the second quarter, they knew exactly where they were and which way to go, and that was north toward the endzone with their name painted on the grass. Bo Nix tossed a short pass to Harold Joiner, who sprinted 79 yards down to the goal line coming up one yard short. Zion Puckett demonstrated the proper downfield blocking technique as he kept his body between the runner and the defender who couldn’t get around him, allowing for an escort.
It was a nice set up for DJ Williams as he barreled in for the 1-yard touchdown to extend the score 10-0.
Ole Miss answered with a 55-yard kick return that led to a 3 play, 23-yard touchdown drive. Derrick Hall did not contain discipline on the end, which allowed Quarterback JR Plumlee to step across the goal line to make it interesting at 10-7 and gain momentum at the half.
Auburn had 315 total yards to Ole Miss 129 lopsided but not reflective in the score. It was that type of game where numbers didn’t seem to match up with production where it counts on the scoreboard.
Auburn asserted themselves with a 13 play 54-yard touchdown drive, and the defense contributed two, three and outs followed by a successful 38-yard field goal. They were firmly in control 20-7. It seemed to be a formality. But in the SEC, until the clock strikes zero, the opponent will fight. And fight the Rebels did sparking excitement right down to the end.
“In the Second half, I thought the key to the game was the first two drives. We had some long drives and kept their offense off the field. There were some big, key, third-down conversions there said, Coach Malzahn.”
After a well-orchestrated 15 play, 91-yard drive the home crowd had reason to be concerned the score was 20-14 with 5:45 remaining. Auburn had a chance to seal the victory, but the drive stalled and faded when Anders Carlson missed his third field goal attempt with a new holder, this one from 49 yards away.
Surely the armchair coaches will question why not pooch kick it away with the hopes of pinning them deep with a lot of grass to mow.
Coach Malzahn was asked did he second guess the decision to kick it with his kicker struggling, “no with the game on the line I was playing to win our kicker is much better than we saw tonight. I believe in him, and I would do it again.”
The problem with such a long unsuccessful attempt, the opponent will get the ball with a short field. In this case, a touchdown would have tied the game. A 33-yard completion to Braylon Sanders brought about a scare until the flag for holding was spotted. Sometimes you hatem other times you lovem saved by the flag.
Plumlee took a deep shot near the endzone, but Christian Tutt played shut down defense covering the receiver with a blanket. The clock was in the role of an enemy as pressure mounted, Plumlee pressed scrambling to one side of the field and racing back to the other before he heaved up a desperation pass in the middle of the field. Tutt intercepted it. He ran the clock out as he maneuvered 57 yards thrilling the crowd of 87,457 to save the victory. To quote wide receiver Anthony Schwartz on the ending of the game, “It was too close for comfort, but at the end of the day, we got the win. Now it’s on to the next team.”
Bo Nix continues to grow, completing 30-44 passes for 340 yards. Freshman running back DJ Williams led the team in rushing with 93 yards on 20 carries impressing his favorite quarterback Nix, “Obviously, we’re both freshmen. We both came in early. I’ve seen the work that he’s put in. I’ve seen the things that he’s had to overcome to get in this situation, and now that he’s in this position, he’s making the most of it. He’s doing a really good job for us. He’s breaking tackles. He’s catching the ball out of the backfield, and he’s doing some really good things. He’s just going to get better.”
Interesting Facts of the Game
Auburn produced 507 total yards, ran 90 plays, scored 4-4 times in the Red Zone, and they had the ball nearly a quarter longer than the Ole Miss Rebels, yet the game came down to a key play to end the game to escape with the win. That will not cut it with Georgia and Alabama.
I’m really proud of the defense ending the game at the end. Big win for us, and the great thing is that we have a week off. We need it. We’re a little banged up, and we need to heal up. The off week couldn’t come at a better time. I’m really proud of our group and getting a victory. It was great to be back at home. Our crowd was outstanding. I’m just really proud of our team.”
Next on the Auburn Tigers schedule are the Georgia Bulldogs November 16 under the bright lights at Jordan Hare Stadium.