Auburn improved to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC in Gus Malzahn's debut season as head coach while Ole Miss fell to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the league.
Junior tailback Tre Mason credited the defense with stepping up at crunch time and the overall team coming through again in the fourth quarter as it had done in wins over Washington State and Mississippi State.
"Coach Malzahn always says we are going to find a way to win and the fourth quarter is ours," Mason said. "We are trying to give this thing an identity and that is our thing--we own the fourth quarter.
"Our defense stepped up," said Mason, who rushed for 77 yards and one score on 21 carries and caught three passes for 62 yards on a night Auburn rushed for 282 yards. "I am pretty sure they got a lot of confidence off tonight. We have got to reward them when they play good."
The Tigers made school history on Saturday night as Nick Marshall rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. The quarterback joined Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant as players who have rushed for 100 yards in a game this year. The previous high for an AU season was three.
Mason said there wasn't a game plan for the quarterback to keep the ball more on the read plays than in previous games. "That is just the way the defense played us," the running back said. "We take what we can get."
Auburn finished the night with 375 yards while Ole Miss totaled 464. However, Auburn's defense came up big on third downs, allowing the Rebels to convert just 5-19 while Auburn made 5-13.
Auburn was clinging to a precarious 27-22 lead after the Rebels scored with 8:29 left in the game.
The lead looked even shakier after Artis-Payne fumbled on the first play after Mason's 37-yard kickoff return. Instead of an 18-yard gainer for Auburn, the fumble gave Ole Miss the football at its own 40.
Three plays later, on a third and seven call, senior safety Ryan Smith came through with Auburn's second interception of the night. That was huge, but the Tigers still had plenty of work to do.
Playing ultra-conservatively, Auburn had a three-and-out before punting the ball dead at the one-yard line as sophomore Jonathan Jones downed the ball in his 2013 debut after bouncing back from a preseason injury.
With the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd of 86,504 in a deafening roar the rattled Rebels didn't come close to completing a pass on three tries and punted the ball back to the Tigers, who took over at the 31.
Auburn kept the ball for five plays before stalling on fourth and three at the six, setting up a chip shot field goal for Cody Parkey to make the lead 30-22.
"It was great how the defense stepped up at the end and I was so happy about that," Lawson said. "We went out there, executed our assignments and finished."
Auburn took over with 2:02 left and ran out the clock with the Rebels devoid of timeouts.
Star of the Game, Offense: Offensive tackle Greg Robinson consistently knocked Ole Miss defenders off the line of scrimmage.
Star of the Game, Defense: Freshman Carl Lawson made six tackles with two sacks and 3 1/2 behind the line of scrimmage. Honorable mention goes to Anthony Swain, the sophomore linebacker who had a team-high seven solo tackles with one assist off the bench.
Robenson Therezie goes 78 yards with an interception for a score.
Stat Of the Night The Auburn front four came through with a season-best six quarterback sacks.
Injury Report: Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy was back on the sideline cheering on his teammates after being carted off the field on a back brace at the end of the first quarter.
Also injured on the same play was freshman defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who didn't return, but could have played if needed, Malzahn said.
First Half Highlights:
The Tigers couldn't have scripted a much better start as they moved 80 yards in just six plays.
Mason got the drive moving with a 29-yard gainer reception on a screen pass. He ran the ball for seven and 11 yard gains before scoring on first and goal from the one.
Ole Miss got on the scoreboard with 6:42 left in the first quarter when Andrew Ritter made a 42-yard field goal to complete a nine-play possession that covered 50 yards.
The other points in the opening quarter were provided by the defense when Robenson Therezie intercepted a pass by Bo Wallace, who was trying to hit wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the flat. Therezie, one of the team's fastest players, was not going to be caught as he raced 78 yards into the end zone for a score with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers put together their second 80-yard drive midway through the second quarter after the Rebels punted the football into the end zone.
Going to a very fast offensive pace, the Tigers ran a dozen plays in less than four minutes of clock time with Marshall scoring untouched on second and goal at the five-yard line behind blocks from left tackle Robinson and fullback Jay Prosch. Parkey's PAT made the score 20-3 Tigers with 5:17 left in the opening half.
Ole Miss put three more points on the scoreboard as the Rebels were rewarded by gambling on fourth down and short in their own territory. Wallace caught the Tigers off guard by lobbing a pass to Treadwell for 29 yards to the AU 23.
Auburn stiffened at that point with freshman defensive end Lawson making a run stop for lost yardage and a third down sack on Wallace forcing a 44-yard field goal that cut AU's lead to 20-6 with 41 seconds left before halftime.
Auburn led by 14 points although the Rebels held a major time of possession advantage of 21:06 to 8:54.
The Rebels kept the ball for 51 plays and gained 234 yards with 80 on the ground in 27 carries and 154 through the air, hitting 15-24.
The Tigers kept the football for 27 plays and gained 186 yards. Auburn rushed for 137 yards on 18 carries while Marshall completed 5-9 passes for 49 yards.
Second Half Highlights:
Ole Miss won the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers 10-7 in the period. Auburn's points came on a nine-play, 75-yard drive with Marshall scoring on a read option from five yards out to put the Tigers up 27-9.
That trumped a 22-yard field goal by the Rebels, but Ole Miss added two TD passes from Wallace to Donte Moncrief to cut the gap to 27-22. The first one was a perfectly thrown 49-yard pass on a deep slant over Ryan White. The second was a 13-yard pass on a quick out to the sideline.
Gabe Wright gets a sack for the Tigers.
That set the stage for the Auburn defense to step up and make the plays needed to hold on to the victory. Auburn's defense made 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage while Ole Miss managed just four.
"The crowd was unbelievable," Malzahn said. "The crowd really helped us win this game. There were some mistakes made during the game, but overall we are very happy to have the victory. The big sacks I thought were critical putting pressure on the quarterback."
Up Next: The Tigers will take on Western Carolina from the Southern Conference next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium.