The 3rd-ranked Auburn Tigers made a trip to Oxford this weekend and by defeating the homestanding Ole Miss Rebels, won themselves the right to play for the Southeastern Conference Championship in Atlanta on Dec. 4 as the best in the west.
The Tigers were victorious 35-14 before a sellout crowd of 60,787 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field and improved to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in SEC play. Ole Miss fell to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in league play. Both teams have open dates Saturday.
"I am proud of our team and how hard they played," said Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe. "We made far too many mistakes against a great football team to have a chance to win. I am extremely proud of our football team and how hard we fought. But we have to get better and that's my responsibility."
For most of the first half, the Rebels stood toe to toe with a team harboring thoughts of a national title. The Rebels held Auburn in a first-quarter series. After a Cody Ridgeway punt, the Tigers started at the Rebel 47 and after a Ronnie Brown run of 45 yards had it first and goal at the 2. Two rushing plays and an incomplete pass later - a ball batted away by Kelvin Robinson - the Tigers had it fourth and goal at the 1. But a Jason Campbell pass was caught by wide receiver Anthony Mix out of bounds with good coverage by Trumaine McBride. The Rebs took over and an major Auburn threat had been thwarted.
Auburn returned the favor in the second quarter. The Rebs got to the Tiger 7-yard line and on fourth and 1, Brandon Jacobs was stuffed cold for a loss of a yard.
All things considered, things had gone well for underdog Ole Miss as halftime approached. The Rebels had the Tigers right where they wanted them after Cody Ridgeway punted from the AU 36-yard line and a Larry Kendrick catch of the football pinned Auburn at its own 1-yard line. But Auburn went right to work as quarterback Jason Campbell rolled back into his own end zone and hit receiver Courtney Taylor for 23 yards and a first down. The very next play was a Campbell to tight end Cooper Wallace for a gain of 36 yards to the Tiger 40.
Three plays later Campbell, who rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another, hit running back Carnell Williams on a screen pass as the quarterback was under a heavy Rebel rush. The gain was 13 yards down to the UM 14. Three plays after that, Campbell took it in from the 1-yard line, although he lost the football as he barely crossed the plane. Nevertheless the touchdown was signaled and with the extra point by John Vaughn, the Tigers led 7-0 with 26 seconds left in the first half.
The Tigers wasted no time in the second half scoring again, taking the opening kickoff and moving 76 yards in only four plays, the big one a Campbell to Williams 57-yard pass play to the Rebel 2-yard line. Auburn running back Ronnie Brown took it in from there on the next play. Vaughn converted and the Tigers led 14-0 with 13:02 left in the third period.
Two possessions later, the Rebels got on the scoreboard when Ethan Flatt - 12 of 20 for 225 yards and two touchdowns - hit a streaking Bill Flowers down the near sideline, a 64-yard pass play for a score. Jonathan Nichols was good on the point after and the Tigers' lead was only 14-7 with 6:50 to go in the third period.
Auburn extended its lead before the end of the third quarter. Campbell, 11-od-22 for 234 yards, hit Taylor for a 9-yard reception and a score capping a four-play, 44-yard drive that began following an interception. Ole Miss quarterback Robert Lane was hit as he threw the football and was picked off by Tiger free safety Will Herring at the Rebel 44-yard line. Vaughn's extra point made it 21-7 Auburn with 2:43 to go in the third.
But the Rebels came right back themselves to score again and make a game of it. After a holding penalty backed the Rebs up to the 11 to start the drive, running back Jamal Pittman, seeing his first action of the season in this game, carried the ball twice, once for seven yards and once for 14. Three plays later quarterback Ethan Flatt hit wide receiver Kerry Johnson for a 44-yard gain to the Tiger 22.
With a second and 13 from the Auburn 25 on the first play of the fourth quarter, Flatt hit receiver Taye Biddle on the run in the end zone for a touchdown. Nichols made the extra point to cut the Auburn lead to 21-14.
But that would be the Rebels' last hurrah as it would be basically all Auburn from that point on. Two Tiger possessions later Auburn scored in a hurry. The Tigers had a short field for the touchdown as Williams returned a Ridgeway punt 38 yards to the Rebel 25. Three rushing plays later - Brown first for 11 yards and Brown again for 13 more - and Campbell took it in from the 1-yard line. Vaughn was good and the Tigers led 28-14 with 12:29 to go in the contest.
Auburn added another touchdown late after Flatt fumbled at the his own 38 and it was recovered by the Tigers. Auburn kept it on the ground to run the clock and on second and 11 from the 29, Williams made one of his patented runs to the end zone to put this one out of reach. Vaughn's extra point made it 35-14 with 5:33 left.
"This was the type of game I thought we were going to have," said Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. "We were running on fumes. Our players were pretty tired. They scraped up enough to get us a win. It was a great effort from our guy."
For complete stats, go to olemisssports.com.
Rebs fall to Tigers
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