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GAME RECAP: Auburn 35, Ole Miss 28

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Breathe, again.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn somehow ended up getting a third win of the year, and we’re halfway through this season at 3-2 after the Tigers beat Ole Miss 35-28. Bo Nix’s game-winning touchdown to Seth Williams in the final 90 seconds provided the difference in a game that saw the Auburn offense run as cleanly as it had all season.

If you watched the Ole Miss-Alabama, this was almost the opposite of that. Instead of huge plays throughout the first half, both Auburn and the Rebels had four full drives, and each team notched two touchdowns and two punts. Both sides’ first possessions ended in three-and-outs, but Ole Miss started to move the ball on their second drive.

The Rebels went 68 yards in 11 plays and reached inside the Auburn five yard line before Roger McCreary stepped in front of a Matt Corral pass in the back of the end zone and returned it to the Tiger five-yard line. That interception was Corral’s seventh in the last five quarters.

Auburn didn’t waste the opportunity, and turned to the ground game, only really going to the air for a key third down to Seth Williams. Tank Bigsby and Shaun Shivers chewed up yardage on the drive, and Tank capped a 95-yard foray with a short touchdown run to start the scoring. The Tigers went 14 plays and 95 yards to paydirt on the drive, but Ole Miss answered.

Seeing Auburn find its footing in the run game, Ole Miss took the same idea and ran with it. Alternating quarterbacks between Corral and John Rhys Plumlee, Lane Kiffin sent his team to the ground and they went 75 yards in 10 plays for the game-tying touchdown pass to Elijah Moore. Auburn answered on another long drive, this time 79 yards, as Bo Nix took a zone read to the left for the go-ahead score to make it 14-7 Tigers.

Ole Miss didn’t shy away, and hit back with a quarterback rushing touchdown of their own as Corral capped a 78 yard drive with a short stroll into the end zone to tie the game at 14-all with 3:35 left in the half. Auburn reached midfield, but was forced to punt after a sack of Bo Nix, and Ole Miss ran out the clock with just a few seconds remaining until the intermission.

While the first half was a bit blase, the second half brought some drizzle and panache. Auburn was set to receive the kickoff out of halftime, and Tank Bigsby took it 100 yards for the apparent spark and go-ahead score before a soft holding call on Smoke Monday brought back the score. Three plays later, Auburn was forced to punt and the snap went over Oscar Chapman’s head, and the Rebels took over with great field position.

Somehow, Lane Kiffin’s squirrelliness got the better of him, and instead of taking points he elected to fake a field goal, but Roger McCreary made his second huge play of the day and tackled kicker Luke Logan for a loss. Auburn’s offense failed once again and Ole Miss caught the Tiger defense flat-footed on a 60-yard wheel route to Kenny Yeboah. A couple plays later, Corral jogged untouched into the end zone to give the Rebels their first lead of the day at 21-14.

With things seemingly falling apart, you would think that things might be dim on the Auburn sideline, but Gus Malzahn picked his team up, and sent them to work. Auburn took over at the 12-yard line after a poor kick return, but this time mixed up the pass and the run nicely on the ensuing drive. Bigsby converted a third down with a 19-yard run, and then Nix tossed a jump ball to Seth Williams who caught it at the Ole Miss 1-yard line, and Shaun Shivers punched it in for the score on the next play.

That touchdown energized the defense, and they in turn forced a punt thanks to a big Smoke Monday sack on third down. Auburn took back possession and stormed 80 yards on 11 plays (one of them being a pass to the tight end!!!!) with Tank Bigsby flouting rules and restrictions as he embarrassed the Ole Miss defense with a spinning, diving 18-yard touchdown run. Even so, Auburn could not fully take control, as the extra point snap was bobbled, and the Tigers led just 27-21 with 10:12 to go.

That proved to be an emphatic missed PAT, since Ole Miss wove down the field in 13 plays and took the lead on a Jerrion Ealy 5-yard score. Luke Logan’s extra point capped the 77-yard drive and put the Rebels up 28-27, leaving Auburn a little more than six minutes to answer.

In a scary turn of events, Shaun Shivers let the kickoff go by him and roll into the end zone, but the officials blew the whistle before an Ole Miss player recovered the ball and Auburn’s offense was allowed to take the field. It appeared that Shivers did touch the ball, which would’ve resulted in a Rebel touchdown. Somehow, it wasn’t reviewed and Auburn escaped without harm. Even so, a holding penalty put Auburn behind the chains and a three-and-out forced a punt with five minutes left to go and the Tigers down a point.

Auburn’s defense forced a three-and-out of their own, and after a punt and touchback, Bo Nix got one more opportunity to put Auburn on top with a 28-27 deficit and 2:25 to play. On first down, he got sacked, but a completion to Eli Stove and a Tank Bigsby run converted the first down. After that, an out route to Anthony Schwartz moved the chains again and stopped the clock with 1:21 to go.

On 1st and 10 from the Auburn 42, Nix went to the sideline again for Seth Williams, who caught the pass and turned upfield away from an Ole Miss defender, scampering all the way to end zone for a 58-yard go-ahead touchdown. The Tigers converted the two-point conversion and took a 35-28 lead with 1:11 left in the ballgame.

Ole Miss meandered inside the Auburn 30 with :08 remaining, and after Kenny Yeboah dropped what could’ve been the game-tying touchdown, the Rebels faced one last play with :03 to go. Matt Corral rolled out, went past the line of scrimmage, and threw a pick. Ballgame, 35-28 Tigers.

FINAL STATS

PLAYER OF THE GAME

It’s Seth Williams. I started writing this recap early in the second half, and it was Tank Bigsby at that point. It changed during Auburn’s final drive. Williams’ 42-yard go-ahead touchdown was the biggest play of the season for Auburn, and his 135 yards receiving on the day were the sparks that the Tigers needed.

Honorable Mention: Tank Bigsby -

Honorable Mention: Roger McCreary — the sophomore defensive back prevented two scores with an interception in the end zone and a TFL on Ole Miss’ fake field goal.

PLAY OF THE GAME

It’s this, duh.

(I wrote the following before Williams’ game-winning touchdown): It’s difficult not to put Roger McCreary’s end zone pick six, or the long pass to Seth Williams that set up Auburn’s third touchdown, or Tank’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, but this block was borderline erotic.

Aw, heck. Here’s Tank, looking like Cadillac Williams out there.

UP NEXT

Well, this is going to be hilariously spooked. Auburn gets to play LSU. Next Saturday. On Halloween. At home. On the day of a full moon. Kickoff is at 2:30 Central time on CBS. If Auburn can win that one, it’ll turn a sour past couple of weeks into a pretty solid season heading into October. War Eagle!