Josh Holsey (above) returns an interception in the fourth quarter.
Oxford, Miss.--After being torched for 22 points in the first half, Auburn's defense allowed just seven in the second half while the AU offense kept scoring on the way to a 40-29 SEC football road victory over the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night.
Kamryn Pettway led Auburn’s potent ground attack by rushing 30 times for another career-high of 236 yards as the Tigers ran for 307 as a team on 52 carries.
Sean White was sharp, too, at quarterback, hitting 15-22 passes for 247 yards and one score. He also made key runs to move the chains and finished with 27 net yards on five carries.
On a night the Auburn defense allowed Chad Kelly to complete 36-59 passes for 465 yards and three scores, the senior quarterback’s one turnover, a fourth quarter interception by cornerback Josh Holsey, had a huge impact on the game.
“It was probably the play of the game,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “When he returned that he flipped the field and I believe the offense was able to score there and that really put the game away.”
With the Tigers holding a precarious 33-29 lead, Holsey’s pick and 47-yard run on a third down play set up an insurance score for the visitors, who have now won five in a row to improve to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. The Rebels dropped to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the league.
Two Pettway runs moved the football from the 25 to the three-yard line, setting up a run by Kerryon Johnson for a touchdown.
Kamryn Pettway rumbles for yardage vs. Ole Miss.
“It is just a huge win in a tough place to play,” Malzahn said. “We are glad to get out of here with a victory. We faced some adversity on the road for the first time. At halftime it was a dogfight. The third quarter was a dogfight...I?am proud of our team.”
Malzahn added, “They have been playing great at home all year. They have got the big-time quarterback and really fast receivers. I am really proud of the defense making adjustments in the second half to hold that team to seven points. I think our third down defense in the second half was outstanding and the fourth down stops were huge.”
Former Ole Miss player Austin Golson, who transferred to AU from Ole Miss, said it was a special win for him personally and the Tigers. “It was an awesome game. That was the SEC is all about--close games. It was fun, especially when you come out with a win on the road. That is very hard to do. Hats off to those guys. They are a really good football team.”
Auburn won the toss and elected to defer the decision tot he second half. The Rebels said thank you very much, took the football and drove 78 yards on 12 plays to take a quick lead.
Tight end Evan Engram scored on a 15-yard pass from Chad Kelly, but Montravius Adams blocked the PAT to leave the score 6-0.
The Tigers responded with a touchdown on their first possession. Auburn moved 90 yards on 10 plays.
Kamryn Pettway scored from 41 yards out on a third down and one running play when he broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and made a bee line to the end zone.
Auburn’s 7-6 lead didn’t last long though as the Rebels drove 75 yards on seven plays as Kelly had the hot hand passing the ball. He hit DeMarkus Lodge on a 26-yard pass to make the score 13-7 with 5:36 in the opening quarter.
The Tigers scored on their second possession, too, but only got three points on a 45-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.
Ole Miss answered with a 20-yard field goal to cap a 10-play drive that covered 72 yards. Gary Wunderlich made the score 16-10 with 14:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Auburn regained the lead on the next possession on five running plays. Kerryon Johnson took a direct snap on third a goal from the one-yard line for the score putting the Tigers on top 17-16.
Ole Miss continued to have success moving the football, but stalled on the AU 32 after converting a fourth down and one with a Kelly run for three yards. On fourth and nine at the 32 the Rebels kicked a 49-yard field goal to put the home team up 19-17.
Auburn regained a one-point lead when Carlson nailed a 32-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the half after the Tigers moved the ball 60 yards on 10 plays.
In a first half without a punt the trend continued as Ole Miss moved 66 yards on 12 plays to retake the lead at intermission at 22-20 on a 26-yard field goal by Wunderlich with five seconds left in the half.
After going three-and-out to start the third quarter the Tigers scored the first points of the half by driving 76 yards on seven plays. Sean White’s 15-yard pass to Jalen Harris came with 3:11 in the period to cap a drive that covered 76 yards on seven plays a 15-yard scramble by White being a key play to convert a third down.
The lead didn’t last long as the Rebels raced down the field to score in seven plays. The TD came on a 10-yard pass to Damorea Stringfellow.
Another field goal by Carlson, this one from 30 yards out with 12:25 left in the fourth quarter, put the Tigers on top 30-29. Auburn moved 63 yards on 10 plays to set up the score.
After forcing a three-and-out for the Ole Miss offense, Auburn moved the football 52 yards on seven plays to set up a 47-yard field goal by Carlson. That put the Tigers up 33-29 with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter.
The defense came up with a huge play, the first turnover of the night, when Josh Holsey intercepted Kelly and returned the football 47 yards to the Ole Miss 25.
Two Pettway runs set up the Tigers first and goal at the three. On the next play Kerryon Johnson took a direct snap and ran up the middle for a touchdown to put the Tigers on top 40-29 with 5:58 left in the game.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn improved now 8-0 all-time when an opposing quarterback has passed for more than 400 yards.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Pettway is the 19th player in Auburn history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game. The sophomore posted his fifth 100-yard game of the season, and his third straight 150-yard game. His 236 rushing yards are a career high. The previous best was 192 against Arkansas last week. His 236 yards ranks 10th in school history.
Stat of the Game: The Tigers didn’t have a turnover.
Stat of the Game, Part 2: Auburn averaged 5.9 yards on its 52 rushing attempts.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday with an 11 a.m. home game vs. Vanderbilt.