Auburn Survives Ole Miss (Grading Auburn’s 20-14 win over Ole Miss)
Auburn’s freshmen made enough plays
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a harrowing 20–14 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels. Despite rolling up 507 yards of offense with only 1 turnover, Auburn managed only a couple of touchdowns and had to hold on for dear life against a healthy, motivated Ole Miss team. The Auburn offense improved a great deal over the last game, but there was regression from the defense thanks to injuries and illness, and this wasn’t a great special teams day, either.
Auburn moved the ball into Ole Miss territory on its first 5 drives of the first half, only to come up empty until the Tigers settled for a field goal after having first and goal at the 8-yard line. I did approve of Auburn’s short passing game plan as Ole Miss is noted for having a decent rushing defense but has been leaky against the pass. The short game paid dividends on the 6th Auburn possession of the day when Bo Nix hit Harold Joiner on a wheel route that went 79 yards to the Ole Miss 1-yard line. That drive, Auburn did the smart thing and kept the strongest runner Auburn has right now, D. J. Williams, in the game to punch the touchdown in.
After building a 10–0 lead, Auburn’s offense got the ball back, promptly had 3 straight incomplete passes and ended up giving the ball back to Ole Miss with 47 seconds left in the half. Disastrous coverage on the punt and a sudden defensive inability to recognize counter runs had Ole Miss in the Auburn end zone quickly, and it was back to a tight ball game at the half.
Auburn opened the 3rd quarter running D. J. Williams right at the Rebel defense, and a 13-play touchdown drive ensued. Why it took till nearly halftime to get Williams involved after he was the most successful offensive player at LSU was a mystery. The Auburn defense produced a quick three and out, and then Auburn drove it again down to the Ole Miss 24. The offensive brain trust then forgot about D. J. Williams and ended up having to settle for a field goal and a 20–7 lead. The Tigers were driving across midfield as the 3rd quarter ended.
In the 4th quarter, it was apparent that the coaches had forgotten about the plan to throw the ball short on early downs. A sack forced Auburn to punt it back to Ole Miss, and it was time to lean on the defense. Auburn had Ole Miss pinned at its 9-yard line but just could not get off the field on 3rd and 4th downs. Ole Miss put together a 15-play drive and got a rushing touchdown with 5:45 remaining in the ball game. What really hurt is that Auburn had 2 major distance penalties during that drive.
Auburn put together a 12-play drive after the Ole Miss score, but a comedy of errors, including a couple of Les-Miles-worthy clock mismanagement moments gave Ole Miss the ball back after a missed field goal. Ole Miss was able to move the ball quickly to the Auburn 35, then the Tiger pass rush slammed the door. Auburn held on for the 20–14 win.
Special teams were not great in this game. I suppose some will point to 3 missed field goal out of 5 attempts, but all 3 misses were from beyond 40 yards. I call such attempts a coin flip, but one would have expected Auburn to make at least 1 of them. Auburn’s punts were pretty short, averaging only 38 yards. Two of them were expertly killed inside the 20, but the remaining punt was low and was returned 55 yards, ultimately costing Auburn a touchdown just before the half. There were only a couple of touchbacks on 5 kickoffs, and Auburn gave up 22.7 yards per return, the worst result of the season in that department. The bright spot on the special teams day was a 46-yard kick return by Noah Igbinoghene.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: B-. The line did a decent job on gap control and helped limit the Rebel rushing attack at times. However, the unit produced no sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, and only 1.5 tackles for loss. The unit contributed 18 total tackles. The highlight of the day was when Derrick Brown was running onto the field very late, and Ole Miss was already running a screen into that area. Brown planted a stunned ball carrier in the dirt! Right place, right time…
Linebackers: B+. I counted off a bit for the last Ole Miss drive where linebackers neither covered well nor contained the running quarterback. However, for the most part this unit did a good job. We knew that more would be asked of them this week against a run-heavy Rebel offense. I thought K. J. Britt did a good job getting Auburn lined up in the right gaps, and Owen Pappoe is going to be a star, if he isn’t already.
Secondary: B+. When first heard that safety Jeremiah Dinson was going to miss the game due to illness, I wondered what impact that would have. Auburn did miss Dinson’s uncanny ability to get up the field and make tackles near the line of scrimmage. However, backups like Smoke Monday and Jamien Sherwood did a good job in most respects.
Punting: C. Arryn Siposs was only called on 3 times. He had 2 punts killed deep, but a low one just before the half was costly as the coverage team overran it and Ole Miss was able to get a big return and score before the half.
Punt Returns: C. Auburn was dangerous returning punts early this season, but that facet of the game disappeared as October began. Ole Miss punted 8 times. Auburn had 4 fair catches, let three balls hit and roll, and Christian Tutt had 1 return for just 1 yard. Can’t fault Tutt for that one as the coverage team was all over him.
Kick Returns: A-. Ole Miss kicked short twice, and Auburn fair caught to put the ball at the 25 both times. The one time the Rebels kicked it to the goal line, Noah Igbinoghene made them pay with a 46-yard return up to near midfield.
Place Kicking: C+. I looked at the missed field goals, but that didn’t really factor into this grade. What did was not kicking many touchbacks and allowing over 20 yards per return. This season, Auburn has done well dumping return men well short of the 25-yard line. That was not the rule in this game.
Offensive Line: A-. Ole Miss had just 3 tackles for loss, including 1 sack, and generally had to blitz to get any pressure. It was so nice this week to have no penalties and no bad snaps! Auburn’s stats show no quarterback pressures at all from Ole Miss, but I’m not sure that is accurate. Some might point to a 3.6 yards-per-rush average in this game, but Auburn continues to put 3 or 4 receivers in the game and still keeps trying to run it up the middle. That’s not really on the line.
Running Backs: B. Auburn backs ran hard and blocked well when called on. I counted off for a couple of things. The biggest issue was the fumbled football on the goal line. Auburn got it back, but the loss of yardage meant that Auburn ended up kicking a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. It was also notable that the longest run of the day by a running back was 10 yards from Kam Martin. D. J. Williams had just 11 yards on 3 screen passes, but I had to add a bonus for the big wheel play by Harold Joiner.
Receivers: B. There were a number of dropped passes by different players. I suppose if a team throws 44 passes, there are going to be some drops. Ole Miss had a good plan on how to contain the speed of Anthony Schwartz, and it also did a good job on limiting the damage Seth Williams could do. The tight end was open all day, and Auburn did get the ball to Jay Jay Wilson a couple of times for big gains.
Quarterback: B. I counted off a letter grade for the lost fumble. Bo Nix missed a few throws but not many. I thought outside of the fumble, he handled himself much better this week. He also had some good runs as well. Count me among those who worried every time Nix took off, considering that Auburn has only 1 other scholarship quarterback left on the roster.
This week was the very definition of a trap game. I tried to warn everyone who would listen that Auburn was in for a fight from a scrappy, well rested Ole Miss team. The Rebels fought hard and acquitted themselves well.
I was a bit dismayed by the fans in this game, too. I follow the games on radio with headphones on, and you can really measure the crowd noise that way. There was little in this game. I don’t think it was just the students. One thing to remember is that it is pretty rare to have Auburn home games with the temps down in the low 40’s. Dressing for that sort of game is a different challenge for fans, especially young students. What works fine for walking around campus at 40 degrees is different from what is necessary to be comfortable in the stands for 3 hours. Call it a learning experience.
Auburn has a bye week and needs it to get folks healthy. Georgia won in Jacksonville yesterday and will come in looking to ice the division. I hope our offensive brain trust watched that game. Florida could do very little on the ground. If Auburn expects to run the ball at Georgia on first down with 4 wide receivers in the game, it will be a very long day in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Here is hoping the 44 passes thrown against Ole Miss was a rehearsal for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry!