Rebel offense continues to struggle in loss

Ole Miss fell 27-3 to Auburn as the Rebel offense struggled to get anything going after an early drive failed to produce points.

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn bounced back from its 20-17 overtime loss at LSU last Saturday night, but Ole Miss couldn't capitalize on its 13-7 win over Kentucky in Oxford last Saturday afternoon as the Tigers beat the Rebels 27-3 before 85,791 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The storyline of this one for Ole Miss was the lack of production by the offense again and the fact that to start the Rebels' first drive of the fourth quarter, Ethan Flatt got his first game snaps of the 2005 season.

Ole Miss' offensive statistics were more of the same - 209 yards but only 23 net yards rushing. The Rebels had just 14 first downs to 24 for the Tigers.

The Rebel defense limited Auburn to 123 rushing yards and the Tigers had 362 total yards and 24 first downs.

The appearance of Flatt in the game as the fourth quarter got underway signaled that the Rebel offense could go no longer with QB starter Micheal Spurlock or frequent backup Robert Lane, now playing fullback - at least on this particular day. Flatt, at least for one quarter, said he did the best he could under the circumstances.

"It had been so long since I played, I was a little nervous on the first drive," said Flatt, who was 11-of-17 for 81 yards in the fourth period while through three quarters Spurlock was 10-of-18 with an interception and 105 yards. "The last three or four months have been some of the toughest for me. Coach (Noel) Mazzone told me before the game today that I might play. Getting more reps (in practice) lately has been a key to my improvement."

Coach Ed Orgeron said Flatt would be looked at harder in practice.

"We're going to give him a shot, there's no doubt," Coach O said. "I thought he moved the ball well. He's been progressing. Our offensive staff likes him and likes the way he throws the football. He's very smart and he knows the offense. We will give him a shot, but that's not to be decided yet."

The Rebels have an open date next Saturday.

Orgeron said he was not pleased with his team's overall play.

"Not a very good performance by our team obviously today," said the first-year Rebel head coach. "I thought we hung in there with them defensively for a while. But we could not make plays on third down when we needed to. Not scoring down there early when we had a chance hurt us.The interception at the end (of the first half) really hurt us. And the penalties really hurt us. Give Auburn credit. They are a good football team. We had 23 yards rushing to their 123. That was the difference today."

Both teams had scoring opportunities in the first quarter. After the Rebels forced Auburn to punt on its first drive, Mike Espy was knocked down before the ball reached him on the punt, giving Ole Miss first down at the Tiger 40. Soon after, the Rebs had it second and goal at the Tiger 2-yard line, but a Brandon Jacobs rush was stopped just short of the goalline. On third and 1 Jacobs lost a yard. On fourth and 2 a pitch to Jacobs bounced off him and Spurlock recovered at the 14.

Auburn took over and drove downfield itself, but like the Rebels could not get points. On the drive's 16th play, Michael Bozeman put a heavy rush on Tiger quarterback Brandon Cox, who threw the football out of the back of the end zone.

But Auburn had taken control of field position and after the Rebels punted in three plays began a drive for points at the UM 39-yard line as the second period began. In five plays the Tigers had a touchdown on their side of the scoreboard. The scoring play began when Cox handed off to Courtney Taylor who rolled right and passed to an open Devin Aromashodu in the end zone. John Vaughn connected on the extra point for a 7-0 Auburn lead with 13:07 to go in the first half.

The Rebels narrowed the gap to 7-3 shortly thereafter. Ole Miss had to punt on its next possession but a fumble by punt receiver Tre Smith was recovered by Jamal Pittman, and the Rebels had it first down at the Tiger 28. On fourth and 8 from the AU 26, Matt Hinkle was called on for a 43-yard field goal which was good with 8:41 left in the second quarter.

Auburn went right back down field to answer. Starting at its own 20 following the Will Moseley kickoff, the Tigers moved to the Rebel 17. But on third and 14 Cox threw incompete for Aromashodu and had to settle for a 35-yard Vaughn field goal with 2:37 left before intermission and a 10-3 lead.

But the homestanding Tigers would get three more points before halftime. On third and eight from the UM 34, Spurlock's pass to midfield intended for Espy was picked off by Steve Gandy and returned to the Rebel 23. The Ole Miss defense, which had played a solid first half, rose again to halt the Tiger threat and force a field goal. On fourth and nine from the 22-yard line, Vaughn was true on a 39-yarder with 51 seconds left before the break. That's the way things stood as the teams headed to the locker room - 13-3 Auburn.

The Tigers wasted no time getting points in the third quarter, although the drive for a score took a lot of time off the game clock. After the Rebels couldn't move it to start the second half, Auburn drove 42 yards after a Rob Park 42-yard punt was returned 25 yards by Tre Smith. Although he fumbled and the officials signaled Ole Miss football, the play was reviewed and the football awarded to Auburn.

The Tigers moved all 42 yards in 11 plays with Cox completing a 1-yard pass to Ben Obomanu on a play that was also reviewed. The extra point by Vaughn was good and the Tigers led 20-3 with 6:46 to go in the third period.

Auburn added its final score of the day on a 4-yard run by Kenny Irons, following a Park punt and an interference call on UM that gave the Tigers first down at the Rebel 25. Two plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone. Vaughn converted the point after, and Auburn led 27-3 with 5:34 to go in the contest.

With the open date, Ole Miss is now 3-5 on the season and 1-4 in Southeastern Conference play. Auburn, 6-2 and 4-1, plays at Kentucky Saturday.

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