That was... something.
Auburn survived a really weirdly hearty effort from Ole Miss tonight by a score of 20-14, improving to 7-2 on the year, and hitting the bye week before Georgia with a win.
A win... in the most literal sense of the word and nothing else.
Tonight was an amalgamation of terrible things from Auburn’s entire team, but not the areas you might expect. After last week, the inaccuracies of Bo Nix were all but gone tonight, and he was one of the bright spots, completing 30-44 passes for 340 yards. Overall, the Tigers rolled up 507 yards of offense, held the ball for more than 36 minutes, ran 90 plays, and went 12-21 on third downs. On paper, that spells a blowout win. Instead, it took a fourth down stop in the waning seconds to clinch the victory.
Ole Miss’ offense did very little in this game outside of two drives, gaining just 266 yards total. They certainly didn’t do anything early on in the game, failing on downs to start the game before punting on their next six drives.
Auburn, however, moved the ball but couldn’t capitalize. Anders Carlson missed field goals from 40 and 49 yards away on the first two drives of the game before a missed exchange between Nix and D.J. Williams ended the third drive. The first points of the game came after a 14-play, 72-yard drive as Carlson banged through a short field goal to put Auburn up 3-0 with 6:03 to play in the first half.
The Tigers would add a touchdown on the next drive on a short D.J. Williams touchdown run, which followed a 78-yard connection from Nix to Harold Joiner. An Ole Miss punt return gave the Rebels fantastic field position right after that, and they went 23 yards in only three plays to cut the deficit down to 10-7 at halftime.
Auburn’s first two drives of the second half were fruitful, and they spanned 54 and 53 yards respectively, each in 13 plays. A Bo Nix touchdown run and a Carlson field goal doubled the point total and put the Tigers on top 20-7 with 4:15 to go in the third quarter. Defenses ruled for the next 15 minutes before Ole Miss started a drive at their own 9-yard line and, aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties, scored their second touchdown of the game to cut the lead down to 20-14.
Needing to run out the clock or ice the game with a score, Auburn drove down into field goal range, converting three third downs, before Anders Carlson missed his third field goal of the game (this one from 49 yards away). At that point, there was 1:14 to go, and Ole Miss had the ball at their own 31-yard line trailing by six. The Rebels moved into Auburn’s end of the field before the defense forced a fourth down, and John Rhys Plumlee threw an interception on a wild attempt. Christian Tutt nearly returned it for a touchdown before being tackled after time had run out, securing the win.
Overall, it was a game that looked like a team ready for a bye week and not ready for an Ole Miss team that treated this game like the Super Bowl. Auburn won, but didn’t look polished or even good. Instead, the Tigers made mistakes, couldn’t catch the ball, and still didn’t seem to be on the same page on offense. The defense was great except for a few untimely penalties and the two touchdown drives allowed, but it’s hard to complain about allowing 14 points. We wouldn’t think anything of it if the game hadn’t been close.
In the end, Auburn found a running back that can provide a spark as D.J. Williams ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Bo Nix looked more polished, and it seemed like the offense was tailored better to get him into a passing rhythm. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers, and the cadre of running backs was involved in the rush offense and the pass offense. The plan wasn’t the issue, it was the execution.
Here are the final stats:
Auburn gets a bye week next Saturday before welcoming Georgia to Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16th. The Bulldogs beat Florida today 24-17 to improve to 7-1 ahead of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. War Eagle, y’all.