Defensively Challenged

Ole Miss' defensive struggles were magnified Saturday.

No. 3 Auburn, led by Cameron Newton, scored on seven of its first eight possessions en route to a 44-17 lead. By that point, the game was over. Ole Miss had surrendered more explosion plays and more blown coverages. The Rebels missed tackles and couldn't muster any pressure on Newton.

The Tigers first punt didn't come until the three-minute mark in the third quarter.

"Very frustrating," sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford, who had six tackles in the loss, said. "I don't have an answer for it. I don't know, man. We're not going to give up. You can't blame no part of it on one person or the other. We're still a team.

"We've got to come together, man. I don't know. We work for good results. We weren't planning on this."

Shackelford, teammates converge on Newton

Auburn racked up 348 yards of total offense in the first half alone. In total, Ole Miss surrendered 572 yards, including 254 to Newton in a 51-31 loss.

Newton was on the receiving end of a touchdown, the first for Auburn in the game, and threw for two more on 18 of 24 passing.

"It's frustrating for everybody as a defense," senior Fon Ingram said. "It eats everybody up – the coaches, the players, the fans. It really affects everybody. It's just taking a toll on us. We've got to solve our problems, because it's just getting bad."

Spirits were expectedly low during postgame interviews in the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility afterwards. Ole Miss had fallen on its collective face in front of a nationally-televised audience.

And a much-maligned defense accepted much of the blame.

"Over the past two years, we went to the Cotton Bowl. The stuff works if we execute it right," Shackelford said. "It's not a new mystery thing out there. We've been winning so far. What's changing now? We've got to get back to that, because nothing's changed.

"We got to make sure we get on the same page."

The Ole Miss defense couldn't get off the field on third down in the game. Auburn converted 9 of its 13 third downs, including 7 of 9 in the first half.

"We couldn't get off the field," senior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said. "We did a good job of hitting them in the mouth on first and second down, but we failed to get off the field. That's real critical against at team like them – the No. 1 team in the nation.

"That was the biggest problem in the game, not being able to get off the field on third down."

Fon Ingram

Explosion plays have been a consistent problem for Ole Miss. It was more of the same against Auburn.

The Rebels gave up four long touchdowns of 20 or more yards. Onterio McCalebb broke off a 68-yard run and Michael Dyer, who led the Tigers with 180 yards on the ground, had a 30-yarder of his own.

"It's definitely frustrating," Powe said. "We missed some key tackles. It shot us in the foot again. It's kind of a cursed season to me, man. But, hey, we're going to press on. That's our theme and that's what we're going to live by."

Ingram, a safety, tied for the team lead in tackles with eight. Brishen Mathews, another safety, had eight stops of his own. Jeremy McGee, a cornerback, was third with seven. That's three members of the Ole Miss secondary posting the best tackling numbers.

"We've just got to tackle," Ingram said. "We've got to keep stressing tackling. This whole game was about tackling. We beat ourselves by not tackling. It's fixable. I'll never quit. The team I'm on now, they'll never quit either."

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