The Rebels, at 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC, can sense the improvement they're making. They appear to be turning into the team they were predicted to be.
Last season, late October was a turning point for a team that wasn't highly thought of in the preseason. Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt warns the challenges ahead this time around may even prove more difficult.
"There are a lot of similarities," he said of 2008 and 2009. "But it's a different year."
Last year Ole Miss beat Auburn 17-7 the week after winning 23-21 at Arkansas. The Rebels didn't lose again, winning six straight including the Cotton Bowl in January.
"The teams we're getting ready to play are probably a little better than last year," Nutt said, with Tennessee, LSU, and Mississippi State the final three games after a non-conference contest with Northern Arizona.
"But it does have a familiar look to it. Again it's one day at a time, go to work, keep improving, keep the blinders on, and let's go."
The Tigers have lost three straight games since a 5-0 start, all of them SEC contests. Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU defeated Auburn after the Tigers were beginning to raise eyebrows.
Nutt said Auburn is a formidable foe. He says his team, which had to settle for field goals three times against Arkansas on fourth downs deep in Razorback territory, has to improve on that this week.
"We've got to get better in the red zone offensively, especially inside the 5-yard line," he said. "We've got to get that corrected."
Ole Miss and Auburn have only played 33 times ever in football. Saturday will be the 20th straight season the two have tangled.
Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker coached the Ole Miss defensive line for Houston Nutt in 2008. Rocker also coached the defensive line for Nutt at Arkansas from 2003-07.
Ole Miss defensive line coach Terry Price held the same position at Auburn from 1999-2008. Price was at Ole Miss from 1995-98. Price and Rocker are also cousins.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for Houston Nutt at Arkansas during the 2006 season.
Auburn running backs coach Curtis Luper played running back at Oklahoma State from 1984-87 while Houston Nutt was the Cowboys' wide receivers coach. Rebels running game coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Markuson was a graduate assistant on the staff during Luper's final season in 1987.
Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan spent two years at Auburn, redshirting in 2005 before playing in 12 games in 2006, collecting 11 tackles including one tackle for loss.
Has It Really Been 10 Years?
Ole Miss and Auburn played an overtime classic 10 seasons ago, a 24-17 UM victory.
Jordan-Hare Stadium has been the scene of some Ole Miss heartache, but two of the last five meetings there between Ole Miss and Auburn have gone the Rebels' way.
Both were close and memorable. Ole Miss' 24-20 win in 2003 propelled the Rebels into the big game the next week against LSU in Oxford.
In 1999, the game was in September. The Rebels were loaded and in the preseason were predicted to have a better than average shot to win the SEC West.
But they stumbled right out of the conference gate, losing at home to Vanderbilt in overtime.
Although it made for a major disappointment at the time, the loss didn't deter some 10,000 Ole Miss fans from making the trip to the plains the following week in hopes of a win and to give former UM head coach Tommy Tuberville, in his first season at Auburn, some grief.
In the end, they got both. But it took the extra period to claim victory.
Auburn placekicker Damon Duval missed a 37-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that would have won it 20-17 for the Tigers.
After quarterback Romaro Miller took a knee to run out the clock, Auburn won the OT toss and gave the ball to Ole Miss. Deuce McAllister gained two yards on first down, and on second and eight Miller hit sure-handed receiver Cory Peterson in the back of the end zone for the lead. Les Binkley's kick gave the Rebs a seven-point advantage.
The Tigers then got their chance. On first down from the 25, Jeff Klein hit Clifton Robinson at the 3-yard line.
Four plays later, the Tigers still hadn't made it into the end zone, and a red and blue celebration of fairly monumental proportions got underway.
Peterson called it "the most gratifying win I've ever been associated with."
He also added, "There was so much surrounding this game, and we just had to put it all on the line."
Also in the postgame, Deuce minced no words and said, among other comments, "We were showing (Tuberville) there are a lot of things that aren't better at Auburn, and one of them is the football team."
Back To The Plains
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