While recent trends, stats, etc said that Auburn was capable of blowing the Rebels away, I think plenty of us still suspected we were going to be in for a shootout in Oxford. For one, Ole Miss has just been a completely different team at home. For another, Auburn just tends to suffer big letdowns in games like this. I hate the Just Auburn Being Auburn thing as much as anyone, but we all know Auburn tends to suffer games like that at the worst possible moments.
I've seen plenty of Auburn teams that would have folded under the Rebels' onslaught of passing. This one wasn't one of them.
Chad Kelly threw for 212 yards in the first quarter alone. He had close to 300 by the half. He finished with 426, an Ole Miss single-game record. What you have to look at in that stat, though, is that after shredding Auburn's defense early, the Tigers did manage to hold on tightly in the 2nd half.
Meanwhile, Auburn did a good bit of what we expected them to do. There were heavy doses of Kamryn Pettway. There were Sean White throws at opportune moments. And, of course, what we all expected, a touchdown pass thrown to a tight end.
Ok, so let's talk about this one.
1) Bend, Don't Break. After getting destroyed in the early going, the Tigers were able to hold a good bit when they needed to. If Ole Miss scores touchdowns on their field goal drives, we're talking about a different game. Auburn held Ole Miss twice on 4th down, including once inside the Tigers' 5 yard line. They were beat up, knocked down, but still did what they needed to get out of town with the victory.
2) Kamryn Pettway, Destroyer of Defensive Souls. 236 yards rushing for the night. He's over 900 yards rushing in just 6 games where he's tallied carries. It's funny when you stop and think about how if things had gone just a bit differently at the running back position, he'd still just be a blocking fullback. When Auburn needed big plays, Pettway came through. He's not the fastest player on the field, but he's fast enough to bust big runs, and you definitely don't want to be in front of him when he's built up a head of steam.
Imagine how impressive his stats would be if he hadn't been injured and held out of the ULM game or had gotten a few carries against Clemson. Would we be talking about #PettwayForHeisman?
3) Sean White Continues To Impress. For all of the praise I have for the running game, Sean White was a huge part of the win, as well. He had a 68.2% completion percentage and 11.23 yards per attempt. If he could just get that deep ball down - he had Kyle Davis wide open and running free again - he would be absolutely deadly. He's now the SEC leader in completion percentage by a staggering 5%, and is the leader in yards per attempt and QB Rating. He's also tied for fewest INTs by a starting QB.
He also proved again - against another SEC defense - that you can't forget his legs. He gained two very key first downs to extend drives. He's still just a red shirt sophomore who barely has a complete season's worth of games under his belt, but he holds up under pressure and in the face of pass rushers like a poised senior.
4) #Legatron is so $$$$$. How nice is it to have a kicker line up for a 47 yard field goal and not even be worried about him missing? If Carlson doesn't win the Lou Groza Award this season, then they ought to just shutter the award. His only miss was a partially blocked kick from 56 yards.
5) So Happy For Josh Holsey. On a night when so many of Auburn's DBs were getting burned, Holsey had by far the best night. He had two very big pass breakups. He almost had a great pick early in the game. Then, with Ole Miss driving down the field and hoping to regain the lead, he finally did snag one and ran it back 47 yards to set up the game-sealing touchdown. Holsey has suffered two big injuries in his career and could easily have hung it up after his last one. Instead, he's still out there making great plays.
6) Monty Adams, Destroyer of Offensive Linemen's Souls. He blocks kicks. He destroys centers to get penetration. He mauled the Ole Miss backup center to get into the backfield on a 3rd Down inside Auburn's 5 that set up the 4th down stop. He's not getting the sack numbers that Nick Fairley did at Auburn, but he's the same type of game-changing dominant force in the middle that Fairley was.
7) Things Are Not All Rosie. The secondary did look bad. This was Carlton Davis' worst game by a long shot. The Tigers also let Chad Kelly run away and break tackles for big gains. The good news is that the Tigers won't face another QB like Kelly in terms of passing ability. Jalen Hurts is an excellent QB with great wheels of his own, but he's not to the level that Kelly is with hitting the back-shoulder throws. Auburn should be concerned at how Ole Miss used Evan Engram against them, though. It's a blue print for what Georgia could do with Isaac Nauta and Alabama could do with O.J. Howard.
8) The Youth Movement At WR. Marcus Davis had a key grab. Jason Smith had a key grab. Tony Stevens was held out with an injury. The rest of the passes were caught by freshmen or sophomores. Eli Stove keeps showing his speed. Darius Slayton has great hands. Kyle Davis is clutch on the over-the-middle passes. If they could all get the timing down on the deep balls, this is a deadly team.
9) A Tight End Caught A Touchdown!!! After a drought going back to CJ Uzomah in the Outback Bowl following the 2014 regular season, a tight end finally caught a touchdown pass. It was a tackle-eligible "trick" play that Auburn says they've been practicing for weeks. You have to love it for Jalen Harris, too. He's been getting better every week, and it was only a matter of time before he caught one. Lutzie was smiling down as his protege hauled that one in and crossed the goal line for the very important Auburn touchdown.
10) Injuries Are Worrisome. Tre Williams left the field and went to the locker room. Javaris Davis planted a foot wrong on a big tackle and had to be helped off. Those are two key players the Tigers can ill afford to lose, right now. Thankfully, the Tigers shouldn't have to worry about not having them next week against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have a salty defense, but not much in the way of an offense.
11) Craziest Stat Of All Time? Auburn is now 8-0 when an opposed QB throws for 400+ yards against the Tigers. I stress that this is one QB. Ole Miss threw for 400+ on the Tigers last year, too, but Kelly himself did not throw for all of them. Here's a list of the performances from Cole Cubelic:
List of QBs to throw for 400 yards against Auburn. All eight lost. pic.twitter.com/cZLXfv1Cra— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 30, 2016
12) What A Crazy Finish We Are In For. A few weeks ago, we talked about how Auburn was likely going to finish the regular season at 8-4 with losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. Well, now Auburn has knocked off the Rebels and will be heavy favorites in the three games remaining between here and the Iron Bowl. After the horrible 1-2 start, we're a Texas A&M SEC loss from the Iron Bowl being for the SEC West title. How crazy is that?
13) Savor These. I've been saying this for the last few games. Road wins in the SEC are hard to come by. Double-digit SEC road wins are even harder. While we were stressing, the the Tigers still came out with a big win and are playing with confidence, momentum, and they're having a lot of fun doing it. If that continues, then this will go down as one of the great Auburn teams regardless of the final outcome.