Senior cornerback Walt McFadden intercepted two passes. His first, on a circus catch and return for a touchdown, was part of a wild third quarter during which the Tigers scored 23 points. His second, in the fourth period, ended the last hope for the visiting Rebels.
Senior Ben Tate powered his way for 144 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and raced past the 1,000-yard mark in rushing yards for the first time as a collegian. He also became the fifth player in Auburn history to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark.
Senior Antonio Coleman, playing without a cast on his wrist that slowed him earlier in the season, terrorized Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead throughout the Halloween matchup with two sacks, four quarterback hurries and he had six tackles with four coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior Chris Todd, who had struggled during Auburn's three-game losing streak, hit 12-22 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown to help the Tigers knock off the 22nd-ranked Rebels.
Auburn improved to 6-3 overall and became bowl eligible. The Tigers evened their record at 3-3 in the SEC.
Ole Miss fell to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference.
Auburn had three sacks for 22 yards of losses vs. Ole Miss, and lot of pressure throughout the game forced Snead to throw two interceptions. He was fortunate the number wasn't five as the Tigers dropped three potential picks.
"I thought that was huge," Chizik said of his defense's pressure on Snead, who completed 16-35 passes for one touchdown and 175 yards.
"If that wasn't the best we have been on third down defense, it was certainly one of best," Chizik added of his group that allowed just 3-15 third down conversions to the Rebels.
"That was something we emphasized in practice all week--that and forcing turnovers," Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes said. "We wanted to get back to playing like we did early in the season when we were forcing a lot of turnovers and that is what we did."
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said, "We had great preparation throughout the week. You have to give Auburn credit. They did a good job. They played very physical."
Nutt's team got another big performance from Dexter McCluster, who rushed for 186 yards on 22 carries and caught four passes for 17 yards. "Right now we are getting the ball in McCluster's hands," Nutt said.
Auburn led 10-7 at halftime before things broke loose in the third quarter. Auburn scored 23 points in the period. The most points Ole Miss had given up in a game all year was 22 vs. Alabama.
Senior tight end Tommy Trott got the scoring started early in the third quarter on a 14-yard pass from Kodi Burns, who faked a run at right tackle, pulled up and passed back across the field with a defender in his face.
"I was so wide open and it seemed like the ball was never going to get to me," Trott said. "It was a great call by Coach (Gus) Malzahn.
Auburn's lead ballooned to 24-7 just 12 seconds later when McFadden intercepted a deflected pass on the Ole Miss sideline, kept his balance and stayed in bounds. He then raced down the sideline and scored on the 29-yard return behind a good block from defensive end Antoine Carter who flattened Snead. Carter said the quarterback was so frustrated he kicked the Auburn junior.
At the 7:42 mark of the period Tate raced 53 yards on a sweep at left end. "I got a great block from Byron Isom and Eric Smith got a guy on the corner then I was able to show you my speed," he said with a big smile.
With Auburn up 31-7, the Rebels looked to be a beaten team, but Auburn's kicking game woes resurfaced as Jesse Grandy returned the kickoff 82 yards for a score. That cut the plead to 31-14.
The momentum took an even bigger swing back to the visitors a little more than a minute later when on first down from their own 21 the Rebels scored on a 79-yard touchdown run by McCluster. That cut the Auburn lead to 31-20. However, the home team got two points on the touchdown as the Rebels botched the PAT kick attempt and Demond Washington picked up the loose football and raced the length of the field for a two-point conversion. That ended the scoring for the game with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
"If you look at that, they turned a potential 7-0 swing into a 6-2 swing which is huge," Chizik said of his defense. "If you go back and look at us defensively right now on how many blocked kicks we've had or how many times they've come through in those situations, I am just really proud of those guys.
"That is kind of a down where you can take a down off. Somebody just scored on you and your body language is bad. That is a great example of how those small things in a game of you playing hard, and doing those things all of the time on every play never knowing when that opportunity is going to come. I think that was a huge, huge point for us, a huge swinging point for us at that point of the game as far as momentum goes."
Nutt said he thought his Rebels were going to come back and win the game 34-33 and it was a nervous last quarter for the home team that didn't put the game on ice until McFadden's interception with just under three minutes to play.
The game got off to an eventful start as walk-on defensive end Chris Humphries drilled Jesse Grandy at the 10-yard line on the opening kickoff. However, Ole Miss came out of the pileup with the football as Auburn missed an opportunity for a quick score.
However, Ole Miss didn't let the close call bother them. The Rebels drove 94 yards on 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead as Jevan Snead dumped a pass in the flat to Andy Hartmann for the score. Auburn defensive coordinator made adjustments after that and the Tiger defense played better the rest of the first half.
The Auburn offense responded with a scoring drive the first time it got the ball after taking possession at its own 40 when the Ole Miss kickoff sailed way out of bounds.
The Tigers were their own worst enemy on the possession. A holding penalty on Trott was too much to overcome and the Tigers settled for a 36-yard field goal by West Byrum.
Auburn's defense had a chance to make the score 10-7, but Neiko Thorpe dropped a potential pick-six interception. It was one of three potential interceptions in the first half the Tigers missed. Linebacker Bynes dropped one as did safety Daren Bates. "I always make that catch in practice," Bynes said of the missed interception.
The only other points of the first half came with 5:23 left in the second quarter. Darvin Adams was uncovered on a 28-yard pass from Chris Todd to cap a drive that covered 90 yards on just plays. The touchdown was set up by a 42-yarder Todd to Terrell Zachery pass play on a third and two call with Todd lined up behind center.
"I was really open on the play," said Adams, who noted that kept looking for a defender to come into the play but it didn't happen. "Sometimes those can be hard ones to catch when you are that wide open,"?he said.
At halftime Ole Miss had 233 yards on 47 offensive plays with 126 yards on 25 running plays. Auburn had 183 yards on just 28 snaps with 125 through the air as Todd hit 7-12 passes.
For the game the Tigers out-gained Ole Miss 401-394 yards. A big statistic was one turnover by the Tigers to three for the Rebels.
Auburn rushed for 175 yards to 219 for the Rebels and passed for 226 to 175 for Ole Miss.
Eltoro Freeman led the Tigers in tackles with six solos and three assists while safety Daren Bates added five solos and four assists. Linebacker Craig Stevens had five solos with three assists and Bynes added four solos and two assists.
With the victory, the Tigers made themselves bowl eligible. "Obviously, it was a great feeling," Chizik said. "We have a lot of football left to play so we are going to try to take everything one week at a time and try to win a game. Obviously, that is a big deal for us and is something that will excite our fans as well as our coaches any places. We just have to take it week by week and keep winning."
Next up for the Tigers is a break from SEC play as they take on Furman next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for Homecoming.