AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - The No.11 Auburn Tigers (7-2, 4-2) were back inside Jordan-Hare Stadium where they held on to defeat Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4) 20-14.
The Rebels made things interesting late, but Auburn’s defense made the necessary plays to fend off an upset.
Auburn got rushing touchdowns from DJ Williams in the second quarter and Bo Nix in the third quarter along with two field goals from Anders Carlson to hang on to defeat the Rebels.
Despite two missed field goals from Carlson in the first quarter, Auburn was still able to get Carlson’s third field goal attempt to go through along with Williams’s 1-yard score in quarter number two to get ahead 10-0. Ole Miss would answer before half.
Ole Miss Freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee proved to be an nuisance to the Auburn defense with his legs all night, and it was his running ability that scored the first points for Ole Miss in the game. Plumlee rushed in around the right edge for four yards and a touchdown to close the gap to 10-7 going into halftime. It was a read-option that allowed him to gain the advantage on the outside for the score.
Auburn looked to be pulling away in the third quarter. The Tigers got a 1-yard touchdown run from Nix with 10:09 to play in the quarter. That increased Auburn’s lead to 17-7. Then, with 4:15 remaining in the quarter, Carlson banged through another field goal from 38 yards to increase the Auburn lead to 20-7.
Ole Miss and Auburn traded punts, before Ole Miss embarked on a lengthy fourth-quarter scoring drive. Plumlee led the Rebels on a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. On the drive, a 15-yard horse collar tackle was added onto the end of a spectacular play in which Plumlee pinballed off an Auburn-would-be-tackler, and narrowly escaped being tackled by other Auburn defenders to run back across the right side of the field and turned a negative play into something positive. A few plays later, Ole Miss converted its second fourth down attempt on the drive when Jerrion Ealy rushed for 4 yards to the Auburn 1 for a first down. Snoop Conner punched it in on the very next play to cut Auburn’s lead to one score.
With the ball served back into Auburn’s court, the Tigers needed to avoid going three-and-out and giving the ball back over to Ole Miss with plenty of time to embark on a potential game-winning drive. Seth Williams made that happen. With Auburn facing 3rd and 8, Williams caught a pass on a play-action screen and scampered for 11 yards to convert.
Plays later with the clock around 3:25 left to play, Ole Miss began using its timeouts. Auburn faced yet another third down. On 3rd and 9, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn dialed up another screen pass, but this time to speedster Anthony Schwartz. Schwartz picked up the necessary yardage. He’d finish the game with 89 receiving yards to lead all receivers.
Now with Auburn in field goal range, if forced to make a decision on fourth down, the Tigers could take the points. Indeed, the fourth down decision came and Malzahn opted to take a timeout with 1:20 remaining in the game to think about it. After thinking about it, Malzahn trotted Carlson onto the field for the 49-yarder, but Carlson missed it. The ball banked off the bottom of the right upright and Ole Miss had life with 1:14 remaining.
Plumlee connected on the first play for a big gain, but the play was called back due to a holding call. Now facing 1st and 20 with 1:06 to play, Plumlee still found his guy and Ole Miss faced a 2nd and 3. Plumlee found running room on an impromptu draw and picked up a large gain to move into Auburn territory. With 23 seconds to play, the Rebels faced 3rd and short. Plumlee took a shot at the end zone but his pass fell incomplete. On fourth down, with 17 seconds left, Plumlee scrambled around but couldn’t find anyone open and on a prayer, threw one up and had his attempt intercepted by Auburn’s Christian Tutt, and Auburn held on to defeat the Rebels.
Nix finished the game 30-for-44 and 340 passing yards. His counterpart, Plumlee finished 11-for-21 and 86 passing yards and 92 rushing yards on 17 carries.
The Tigers are off next Saturday and will prepare for a big showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs Nov. 16.