Third Quarter Woes

AUBURN, Ala. -- Ole Miss has had some third quarter issues this year that continued Saturday night against Auburn in the Tigers' 41-23 victory on the Plains.

Last week, Arkansas overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit with a third-quarter barrage of scoring and a Rebel offensive meltdown.

This week, Ole Miss fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to manage a tie at halftime, 17-17. But once again the second half, and the third quarter in particular, did the Rebels in.

"You can't turn it over on the road and expect to win," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt, whose team is now 2-6 overall and 0-5 in the SEC. "We gave them too many gifts and too much field position. The way we started the game was exactly how we didn't want to start it, but then we weathered the storm and tied it at half. We ran the ball, got movement up front and felt good.

"Then, in the second half, we gave up a couple of easy touchdowns and we didn't score until very late in the game. Michael Dyer didn't hurt us in the first half that much, but we missed tackles in the second half and it cost us. Auburn didn't do anything differently in the second half, we just didn't execute like we did in the first half."

Nut was pleased with the way the Rebs ran the ball, for the most part, with 220 yards on the ground, but the after-half lull was the deciding factor.

"We came out early at halftime to try to get the guys loose, we stressed the third quarter all week, we even scripted our third quarter plays – anything to get us out of that third quarter doldrum, but we still had them," Nut stated. "We can't quit. We have to figure it out and get it fixed, but as you can tell, we are frustrated by it."

Offensive Coordinator David Lee was as perplexed as Nutt about the third quarter.

"We stressed it so much, I can't tell you, but once again we didn't win the third quarter," he said, leaning on a podium in front of a small gathering of press.

Randall Mackey
Associated Press

"We ran the ball so well in the first half and then we didn't seem to have the same tenacity with the run in the second half until the end. The kids had a great look in the locker room. I don't have an answer. I do not know what is in their heads and hearts in the third quarter. It's not that it is not being stressed. It's just not happening.

"Our quarterback has to be more accurate than he was tonight. That is what threw a wet blanket over us. All week long in practice and even in pre-game, Randall's stride got long and we worked on it all week. He is not a long strider. I kept reminding him, even in pre-game. He needs to be short and on top. We know how to correct it, but he kept doing it. He does it when he is really trying to gun the ball – he over strides. We will get that fixed, but it was very evident tonight."

Lee said Auburn did not do anything different in the second half than they did in the first half.

"They didn't change anything. They just dial things up. They don't care what you do, they just dial up a call and go with it," Lee noted. "There was really no rhyme or reason with what they were doing, but we won the first half and they won the second half."

The Rebels did some different things offensively and at times were successful.

"We took a play from Clemson with the jet sweep and coming across that was good a couple of times. We ran a quarterback power play to the weak side that was good a couple of times. We ran the speed option, which was new," he explained. "But our weak side powers and strong side powers, right at them, were good most of the night. We were able to get wide on them some, but they have a lot of speed. With their speed, we felt it was best to go right at them and it worked a lot. We rushed for 220 yards, which is good in our league, but the rest of our game was off, as I said."

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix thought he might have figured some things out early in the third quarter when his group stopped Auburn on a three-and-out on their first possession, but it didn't last long.

"It was positive the way we started the third quarter, but we started making mistakes and missing tackles and you can't do that against a good team. We made a couple of mistakes in coverage that hurt us – two TD passes were busts," said Nix. "They did nothing different and weren't really getting a better line surge than the first half, but we started breaking down, which we didn't do much in the first half.

"The momentum swing when they converted on a busted coverage. Our safety bit on a play fake and we let the receiver run downfield uncovered."

Once again, the Rebels wilted in the third quarter. It's a habit they are finding hard to break.

No matter what they try to do.

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