Pain on the Plains

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's Brad Lester brought the 87,000-plus inside Jordan-Hare Stadium to their feet with a diving one-yard plunge to give the Tigers a touchdown advantage in the first quarter. The crowd applauded the score, but they could have also begun celebrating the win. It would be enough on Saturday.

The Ole Miss defense gave its most inspired effort of the season, but the offense stalled, sputtered and failed to reach the end zone as No. 23 Auburn (6-3, 4-2) took the victory 17-3.

The Rebels' lone points came on the final play of the first half, and even the field goal came amidst an unsettling scenario. Josh Shene lined up for a 41-yard kick and drilled it down the middle, but a holding call on tight end David Traxler negated the solid effort.

No problem for Shene. The sophomore moved ten yards back and put the 51-yarder into the same location in the South end zone seats with no time left on the clock.

"I was actually more nervous on the first one than the second," Shene said. "I heard the holding penalty and just concentrated on doing the same thing again. I am actually energized by the opposing crowd. It fires me up."

Those points cut the lead to four, but Ole Miss (2-7, 0-6) struggled to establish drives in the second half as well. The Rebels finished with 193 yards of total offense after only breaking the 100-yard barrier late in the third quarter.

Starting quarterback Seth Adams misfired on his first five passes of the game and didn't complete a reception until the 9-minute mark in the second stanza. Adams missed a series during the fourth quarter due to getting kicked in the head, and Ole Miss put together its best drive his absence.

Tiger punter Wes Byrum pinned the Rebels at their own one, when Brent Schaeffer took the field and attempted to tie the score at ten. The senior QB hit 3-of-4 passes on the drive and moved Ole Miss to the Auburn 20 before a miscommunication led to a turnover. Schaeffer looked for Hodge in the end zone, but Hodge broke right and Schaeffer threw left leading to an interception by Patrick Lee.

"You can't tell from down the field, but it looked like he threw the wrong route," Tommy Tuberville said. "He thought maybe it was a post route. They got a good drive going, but it is tough to drive 99 yards on our defense."

Adams has failed to lead the Rebels into the end zone for more than eight consecutive quarters and was sacked three times by the Tigers. The one touchdown since the Alabama game was on a Schaeffer pass in the final minutes against Arkansas.

Auburn capitalized off the momentum and took the ensuing possession 80 yards to put the game away on a 34-yard TD connection between Brandon Cox and Rod Smith.

The touchdown play was one of few mistakes by the Rebel defense that held up against the Tigers and kept Ole Miss within striking distance.

A week after registering 13 stops against Arkansas, Tony Fein established a new career-high with 16 tackles. That was followed by Jamarca Sanford and Johnny Brown, who each registered 11 tackles.

The tone was set on the opening Auburn series when Ashlee Palmer ripped the ball from Smith and recovered it to stop the Tiger drive at the Ole Miss 34.

"They play hard," Tuberville said. "As I told our guys, we got the hardest game from Ole Miss tonight as anyone has all year because of what happened to them last week. They were ready to play."

In the end, Auburn had too many chances thanks to controlling the clock with more than 36 minutes of possession time and 17 more plays from scrimmage than Ole Miss.

Auburn gained 231 rushing yards including a career-high 96 from tailback Brad Lester. Brandon Cox stayed in the entire second half with a bruised right shoulder and finished 16-of-26 for 189 yards and the one score.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis led Ole Miss with 62 yards on 13 carries for most of the Rebels' 70 total rushing yards.

Mike Wallace topped the receivers with five catches for 39 yards.

Ole Miss punter Justin Sparks averaged 40.4 yards on seven punts and pinned Auburn inside the 20 on two occasions.

The Tigers added the winning points on a 36-yard Byrum field goal with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

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