Kris Frost stripped the football from Laquon Treadwell as the receiver tried to put Ole Miss ahead on a pass play with time running out. Auburn’s other junior starting linebacker, Cassanova McKinzy, saw the football come free and jumped on it in the end zone with 1:35 to play.
“I knew he didn’t get the ball into the end zone and I knew I had to get the ball before anybody else did,” said McKinzy, who forced a fumble earlier in the game that Frost recovered.
The Tigers took over at their 25 and ran three plays before punting the ball to the Rebels, who took over at their own 49. With 35 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the Rebels threw three incompletions before trying a pass and laterals on a play that lost seven yards to end the game.
No. 3 Auburn improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC after winning the showdown vs. No. 4 Ole Miss, which dropped to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the league.
“Ole Miss is one of the top teams in the country,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Our defense gave up some yards, but they came up with turnovers and had three stops, I believe, at the end.
“On offense we made some plays in the passing game,” said Malzahn, who watched Nick Marshall complete 15-22 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Nick Marshall ran for 50 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“At times we were able to run the ball consistently against one of the better defenses in the country,” Malzahn pointed out. The Tigers finished with 253 rushing yards on 46 carries, led by Cameron Artis-Payne who gained 143 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
“Our guys find way to win when it is close,” Malzahn added. “Our guys truly believe they are going to win the game if it is close.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze confirmed that Treadwell suffered a fractured ankle on the fumble play and said after the contest that he thought Treadwell was tackled from behind by the collar in the open field by Frost, but added he needs to watch video of the play after a night in which his team benefitted from 13 penalties for 145 yards being called on the visitors.
Despite Ole Miss leading the nation in scoring defense, it was a night for the offenses at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Auburn racked up 507 yards while the Rebels had 492.
“If it is close at the end we are going to find a way to win,” McKinzy said. “We knew it was going to be a 15-round boxing match to the end.”
Ole Miss gained 151 yards on the ground and passed for 341 yards. Cornerback Jonathan Jones said that the Tigers need to get back to work on the practice field and improve their tackling. “It is up to each and every individual to fix it,” he said.The Tigers won the pre-game coin toss and took the ball. That worked out well as Auburn became the first team to score on the Rebels in the first quarter this season by driving 73 yards on eight plays.
The possession almost was cut short when a sideline pass to Duke Williams was ruled incomplete, but the replay booth’s overrule took kicker Daniel Carlson off the field and gave the Tigers first and goal at the two. On the next play Nick Marshall scored on a keeper at right guard.
Ole Miss tied the game with a 92-yard drive on its second possession with most of the damage done through air after punt by Jimmy Hutchinson backed up the home team.
The Rebels scored on a third down and goal play from the four. I’Tavius Mathers took a pitch from Bo Wallace and got by Brandon King, who was in at end as part of a pass rush package. That tied the game at 7-7 with 4:00 left in the opening quarter.
Auburn’s second scoring opportunity was thwarted by an interception by Senquez Golson, his ninth of the season, when Marshall tried to hook up with Williams on a sideline route. The Rebels took over at the Auburn 24 with 10:28 left in the second quarter.
With the Auburn offense bogged down by a series of penalties, Ole Miss pulled ahead in the second period with a quick strike drive.
On first down and 15 Wallace couldn’t find a receiver, but scrambled for a career-long run of 59 yards. With a facemask penalty tacked on the Rebels were in business at the Tiger 10.
On the next play Wallace hit Treadwell in the flat and the wide receiver scored, putting the Rebels up 14-7 with 6:02 on the clock.
Auburn tied the game on a one-play possession when Marshall hit Sammie Coates on a deep crossing route from 57 yards out with 1:24 left before intermission.
However, the Tigers couldn’t hold on to the lead as the Rebels pulled ahead on a 47-yard field goal by Gary Wunderlich on the final play of the half.
Halftime Notes: Auburn out-gained Ole Miss 237-200 in the first half with 126 yards coming on 21 carries. Marshall hit 5-8 passes for 111 yards. The Rebels rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries and Wallace hit 13-18 passes for 123 yards.
Auburn was penalized 10 times for 105 yards in the first half while Ole Miss was flagged five times for 42 yards.
The Tigers dug themselves a bigger hole by giving up a 50-yard pass for a score immediately after a 20-yard punt by Carlson. Wallace hit tight end Evan Engram on a short pass over the middle and he found a hole in the defense allowing him to just reach the end zone to make the score 24-14 with 10:36 left in the third quarter.
Auburn needed a spark and got that by converting a third down and 12 play with a scramble by Marshall that allowed him time to hit Williams for the first down.
From there the Tigers went to the hurry-up and ran the ball to first and goal with zone read runs by Cameron Artis-Payne. Marshall scored from two yards out to cut the lead to 24-21 with 8:30 left in the third period.
After a defensive stop Auburn had to start at its four-yard line after a 58-yard punt with an excellent role for the Rebels. However, Auburn was undaunted and drove the distance in 3:46 on 11 plays.
The Tigers used their pace to cover big chunks of yardage. The final 17 came on a pass from Marshall to Marcus Davis, who was uncovered on a sideline route with 1:59 left in the third period.
Auburn’s lead didn’t last long. The Rebels moved 75 yards on seven plays to pull ahead 31-28 with 14:26 left in the fourth quarter on a three-yard keeper by Wallace after he hooked up with Engram for a 29-yard gain on the play the tight end scored on in the third quarter.
The Tigers responded with a 75-yard drive of their own that featured two key third down conversions. The first was a long pass over the middle to Coates for 41 yards. The next was a third and two keeper at right end by Marshall for three yards to the Ole Miss five.
Two plays later Artis-Payne scored on a six-yard run at right end to the put the Tigers up 35-31 with 10:23 left in the game, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Sammie Coates makes his touchdown catch.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Sammie Coates caught five passes for 122 yards and one touchdown. Malzahn said that he believes the junior is finally close to 100 percent healthy recovering from a knee problem.
Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers were 1-6 on third down plays in the first half, but converted 5-7 in the second half, which Malzahn was the major point of emphasis when the Tigers made halftime adjustments.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Marshall said he thought in the second half the Tigers caused the Ole Miss defense major problems with its fast-paced style of play.
Game Statistics:Game Statistics