Just when it looked like the Rebels' first 5-0 start in SEC in four decades was going to become 5-1 when Jason Campbell threw what could have been the winning touchdown pass with 37 seconds left, the Rebels got a huge break when the football slipped out of the hands of wide-open, wide receiver Ben Obomanu.
"It was a sprintout and Jason had a run-pass option," Obomanu said after the 24-20 Auburn loss. "The play is designed if Jason stops, I stop, and the defense over-pursues and everything. I was wide open in the back of the end zone. It was kind of like I misjudged the ball. I thought I was going to have to jump for it and it just came down. I guess it hit me in the wrong place--the hands--and I dropped it."
Ben Obomanu goes the distance on this touchdown play.
Obomanu caught six passes for 150 yards including a 68-yard bomb in the third quarter when he grabbed a tipped ball he took for a touchdown. He said that his teammates and coaches told him to hang tough and didn't blame the loss on his dropped pass at the end of the game.
"Coaches and everybody said it was a team game," Obomanu said. "It was team loss for four quarters and one play doesn't change a game like that. There were plenty of opportunities we had throughout the game to make some plays and put ourselves in a better situation so we wouldn't have to be in that situation with 10 (actually 37) seconds left in the game. Of course, everybody was trying to telling me it was not my fault--that one play didn't change the game."
Obomanu's drop came on third and goal at the three-yard line. On fourth down, Campell again rolled right and tried to throw to an open receiver. However, he couldn't find an open man and threw the ball toward Jeris McIntyre in the middle of the field. The pass was deflected by the Ole Miss defense, which was able to celebrate the key SEC West victory for the Rebels, who are 6-0 in the conference.
Auburn is 4-2 in the conference and lost its chance to win the SEC Championship, which was the team goal for the year.
Obomanu said he is going to try to take his teammates' and coaches' advice and hang tough. "We have got two more to go," the sophomore said. "Everything happens for a reason. That is what I am going to try to take out of this situation. The Lord blessed me to make some good plays. I scored a touchdown and did some more good things. At the end of the game when I had a chance to really top everything off and end the game on a good note, I don't so it is just something that I have got to live with and understand that the lord put me in situations for a reason."
"We still have got two games left," Campbell said. "The experience we have on this team helps us--guys who have been through it. We have got to come out next week and everybody keep their heads up. One play didn't lose the game. Ben put us in a position to win the game. He is a great kid. I don't want no one to point fingers at him because he did a great job. We had many opportunities where we could have won the game."
Campbell completed 14-26 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 42 more yards on seven carries. He should have had two TD passes and he could have been one of the heroes of the day instead of Ole Miss QB Eli Manning, who completed 10-19 passes for 218 yards and two TDs.
"I told Ben to keep his head up," Campbell said. "We are behind him 100 percent. I told him that I will be behind him any day, any time. I told him to keep working. He made some great plays for us."
When asked if his performance was a statement game in the face of some criticism he has faced this year, Campbell said, "Maybe people will get off my back some. If they don't, they don't know football and they don't know me. I am competitive. I am going to keep working and do whatever it takes us to win."
Offensive coordinator Hugh Nall said the statistics sheet explains why Auburn lost for the fourth time this year. "The bottom line is we didn't make plays when you have to make plays," Nall said. "From a standpoint on third down conversions we were 3-13 and they were (10-18). You have got to make those plays.
"You have got to score when you have a chance," Nall added. "They were three of three and we were three of five. That was the difference in the game--third down conversions and converting in the red zone. Our kids came out and played hard, did a good job at the end with the two-minute drill. They got it down and had the opportunity to score right there. We didn't and they won the game."
Auburn outgained the Rebs 380 to 302 in total offense. Neither team had a turnover.
"There were a lot of other opportunities," Nall said. "We should have won that game if we had kept doing what we were supposed to have done the whole game. We take it and scored on the first two drives--keep doing it, that is our job offensively. We didn't. We hit a lull. We came back in the second half a little bit, but not enough. Against a team like that you have got to be able to score every chance you have to get it and move the football. We just didn't do a good enough job across the board."