Tough Guy Cox, Tough Defense Win for Auburn

A game report features comments from Auburn and Ole Miss players and coaches as the Tigers defeated the Rebels 17-3.

Auburn, Ala.--Nursing a nervous 10-3 lead in the fourth quarter, Auburn finally put away Ole Miss late as senior quarterback Brandon Cox hooked up with wide receiver Rodgeriqus Smith for a 34-yard touchdown with 3:54 left.

Despite playing with a grade one separated right shoulder after being sacked late in the second quarter, the left-handed Cox put his body at risk on the big third down and eight call. He took a licking and kept on ticking.

Cox said the original play was a quick comeback pass route designed for Smith, but when he saw an Ole Miss blitz coming he changed the pass route with an audible.

"I knew that they were sending everybody and that was the play that would be there," he said. "I took a five-step drop and threw the ball and then I got hit. I was on the ground and I didn't see what happened until Rod was in the end zone."

Smith noted the fact that Cox made the right call with no disregard for his health is what he has come to expect. "That's just Brandon," he said. "That is what we have come to expect from him."

Smith, who caught eight Cox passes for 111 yards, said the fact that Cox did it while playing with the separated shoulder makes his play even more impressive. "I didn't even know what had happened to him," the wide receiver said. "I thought he just got hit on the leg or something."

With the two-touchdown lead, Auburn's defense forced a four-and-out and the Tigers took a 17-3 victory, improving their overall record to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. Ole Miss fell to 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the league.

"One of the hardest things in our profession is to bounce back after a disappointment," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Last week, we had a huge one. This week, we came back and regrouped. We didn't play great, but we fought hard. We did some things good, but we were pretty conservative offensively. We controlled the ball.

"We thought we could run the ball a little bit more on them. You have to give a lot of credit to Ole Miss. They played hard. They came in after last week's disappointment not playing very well and did a good job. They moved the ball on us a little bit at the end of the first half which concerned us some. Defensively, we adjusted. If we can keep somebody under 200 yards (total offense) in our conference, we've done a pretty good day's work."

A sellout crowd of 87,451watched the Auburn defense hold the visitors to three points and 193 yards while Auburn racked up 420 total yards. Still, the game wasn't decided until late.

"We just have to do a better job of finishing our drives," Smith said. "We had too many penalties and mistakes, but on the last drive we made plays when we needed to."

Tuberville admitted the Tigers weren't going to earn style points for the victory. "We kept plugging. It wasn't pretty, but it was a win--a SEC win. It got us to six wins. We have a non-conference game (Tennessee Tech) next week, and we have to get some people healthy."

Tuberville said he figured Ole Miss would rally after being embarrassed by Arkansas a week earlier. Linebacker Tony Fein, who had a monster performance with 16 tackles, agreed. "We had a heart-to-heart with each other," he said. "The defensive leaders all got together and wanted to show what we could do. It was a soul searching week. Our pride was hurt after the loss to Arkansas."

Ole Miss won the toss and took the football, but couldn't move on the Auburn defense that allowed the Rebels no first downs in the opening quarter.

The Tigers drove into Rebel territory on their first possession, but lost the football at the 31 when Rodgeriqus Smith was stripped by Ashlee Palmer and the Ole Miss linebacker also recovered.

The Tigers got the ball back at their own 40 after a short punt and used a power running attack to move the ball to a score in nine plays. Brad Lester followed blocks from Tyronne Green and Carl Stewart as he ran into the end zone from a yard out at left guard.

Ole Miss cut the gap to 7-3 at halftime by driving 56 yards on 14 plays for a 51-yard field goal by Joshua Shene on the final play of the second quarter. The previous play he had made a 41-yarder, but the play was negated by a holding call.

The Rebels' offense, which had just 30 total yards prior to its final possession of the half, went into locker room with 86. Auburn had 160, but only 52 of those yards were produced in the second quarter.

The Tigers got the first possession of the third quarter and moved the ball to the Ole Miss 25, but Zach Kutch, filling in for Wesley Byrum who was being held out with a quadricep injury, missed the field goal wide left on a low line drive.

After a three-and-out stand for the Auburn defense, the Tigers drove 58 yards on 10-plays to take a 10-3 lead. This time Byrum came off the bench to try the field goal and he nailed a 36-yarder with 7:59 left in the third quarter.

Antonio Coleman makes a stop on a reverse for the Auburn defense.

Although the Auburn defense was terrific in the third quarter, nursing a one-touchdown lead the game was still in doubt after the Rebels put together an impressive drive after being pinned inside their one-yard line on a fake field goal/punt by Byrum that was downed by center Robert Shiver.

Ole Miss got the ball out of trouble, but QB Seth Adams was knocked out of the game when he ran the football and Brent Schaeffer took over. The lefty led the Rebels into Auburn territory to a first and 10 at the Tiger 22.

Two plays later, with defensive end Antonio Coleman in his face, he threw a pass into the end zone that was easy pickings for Patrick Lee, who made the interception and took a knee for a touchback.

That set up the final Auburn drive that began with 7:07 to play.

Brad Lester, who rushed for a career-high 96 yards, started it with a five-yard gainer. The big plays were a 23-yard third down pass to Smith and and third down pass to Montez Billings for 12 to set up the third down and eight touchdown pass to Smith, who made a pivot move after his catch and raced into the end zone for a score.

"The last drive the third downs hurt us," Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron said. Orgeron said he was pleased for the most part with his team's defensive effort, but said the offensive left much to be desired. "I thought Auburn's defensive line had too much penetration and I will need to see why that happened. As far as the team's competitive spirit, I was proud of them, but we are in no way happy with the performance of the football team tonight. We came here to win and fell short."

Ben Tate rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries for Auburn and Cox hit 16-26 passes for 189 yards and one score. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 62 yards for the Rebels. Adams was 11-24 passing for 89 yards. Schaeffer hit 3-4 passes for 34 yards with one interception.

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