Despite giving up 433 yards of total offense and touchdown passes of 64 and 25 yards from quarterback Ethan Flatt, Auburn held the Rebels when it mattered most and came away with the win. Coach Gene Chizik said this was about heart and guts for his defensive unit because they had to play until the final bell to preserve the win.
"This is the perfect set-up for an ambush," Chizik said. "That's what we kept telling our guys. You have to come into a place like this and you have to win one of these games. To get to Atlanta you have to play ugly sometimes and win. What people don't see is that Ole Miss is getting better and better each week. They concerned us. On the outside people thought this might not be a close game, but we new it was going to be a fight all the way down to the end. That's what it proved to be.
"We gave up a couple of big plays we shouldn't have given up," Chizik said. "Every time something was new or something we hadn't seen, we rallied and adjusted to it. The kids just fought hard the whole game. They just kept pushing and pushing. In the end they won it and they deserve it."
Linebacker Antarrious Williams sat out much of the first half with a bruised shoulder, but returned in the second half and recorded a big sack.
Although Auburn's defense was on the field almost a full 13 minutes longer than the offense, the unit was able to keep the Rebels in check and out of the endzone enough to give Jason Campbell and company time to get cranked up. Linebacker Travis Williams led the way for the Tigers with 12 tackles, 11 solo, and the group sacked Rebel quarterbacks seven times for 40 yards in losses. Chizik said he was amazed at the effort he got out of his defense on a humid night in Oxford.
"It was unbelievable," Chizik said. "We knew that was going to be a dogfight. We gave up some big plays and they just kept fighting back and clawing back. It was forth and one down there early in the first half and they made a huge stop. They just kept fighting. They were beat up and they were tired and they were hurting. They just kept fighting and clawing and really ended up playing their butt off. They deserve it. It wasn't pretty, but it doesn't matter. The final result is all that counts."
Auburn now gets a chance to rest with its first off week of the season coming up next before facing Georgia in a huge game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Chizik said that he could tell his team was ready for some rest during Saturday's game, but they never gave in and kept going until the job was done.
"Nine straight weeks, I've never been around that before when you have to go nine straight weeks," Chizik said. "When you count two-a-days we've been going about 13 straight weeks. It's hard. These kids deserve a break and we've got to get rejuvenated. We'll give them some time off and come back ready to make the last run.
"It's time," Chizik added. "We're beat up and we're tired. They were beat up and tired tonight, but they wouldn't come out and wouldn't stop fighting. They just clawed their way all the way to the end."
On a night when things didn't go their way, Auburn's defense showed the character that has already made it one of the most memorable in recent Tiger history. Without the big names or big bodies to go along with them, Auburn has steam rolled opponent after opponent and Saturday night was another chance for the train to keep rolling. This time tickets were punched for Atlanta on Dec. 4.
"My hat is so off to these kids," Chizik said. "At the beginning of the year nobody thought realistically that Auburn could do it. Our kids know that, but we never really care about what everybody thinks. We just keep plugging away and keep doing what we know we can do. There is so much heart and this team has got something to it now. There's something about this team right now. When things look bleak or they don't look real good, they find a way to pull it out. That's what makes a championship team."