Ole Miss outlasts Auburn in Saturday night SEC showdown
AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - The Auburn Tigers welcomed in the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night for what turned out to be a thriller. The Tigers were looking for their first conference win of the season and to stop a three-game slide. However, Ole Miss outlasted the Tigers and came out ahead 28-21.
Robbie Ashford got the start for the Tiger offense in place of Payton Thorne on Saturday night. On the game’s opening drive, Ashford made a few plays, including a 13-yard run on 3rd and 14. However, the offense failed to convert on fourth down and turned the ball over to Ole Miss.
When the Ole Miss offense took the field, they refused to be denied and rumbled downfield 48 yards into the endzone. The nine-play drive was finished off with a Jaxson Dart touchdown pass to Zakhari Franklin, and Ole Miss was on the board early.
The Auburn offense answered right back on the ensuing drive. Payton Thorne took the field this time and put together a few short runs before Jarquez Hunter exploded through the Ole Miss defense for a 53-yard touchdown to tie things up early in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the offensive dominance continued. Ole Miss quarterback Dart broke loose on a designed quarterback run and took it right up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown, giving the Rebels right back the lead.
Early in the second quarter, the Auburn defense came up with a big turnover. Ole Miss was moving the ball well, and Dart was looking to go deep on 2nd and 3. The Ole Miss receiver tipped the ball, landing in the arms of Auburn defender Donovan Kaufman. Kaufman nearly took the ball all the way to the house but was finally brought down on the Ole Miss 24.
Robbie Ashford led the offense back on the field after the interception, and the Auburn offense looked to capitalize on the short field. Ashford took the ball 15 yards to the goal line on a designed run play in what looked like it may be a touchdown. However, he was ruled down at the one-yard line. Jarquez Hunter took matters into his own hands on the next play and punched it in for his second touchdown of the night.
Late in the second quarter, Ole Miss was threatening to score once again. The ground game was running through the Auburn defense until they got the ball inside the 10-yard line. A costly intentional grounding penalty thanks to an aggressive Auburn blitz pushed the Old Miss offense back to the 20 and caused a loss of down. Unable to convert the third and goal from the 20, Ole Miss sent the field goal unit on to try and break the tie. However, a bad snap forced Ole Miss to improvise a play, and when Charlie Pollock threw the ball, it went into an Auburn defender’s hands. Zion Puckett came down with the ball for Auburn, and the game remained tied.
The Ole Miss defense came up with an interception of their own in the final minute of the half. Ashford was looking for a receiver on a deep slant route, and John Saunders Jr. jumped in front of the ball, coming down with it at the Auburn 12-yard line. The two teams entered the locker room at the half, all tied up at 14.
The third quarter was the story of the defenses, with both teams punting a combined five times. It was not until the final seconds were ticking off the clock in the third that a team finally got within striking distance of the endzone again, and it was Ole Miss. The Rebels assembled an eight-play drive featuring two Dart completions for 20-plus yards. Dart closed things out with a one-yard run into the endzone, and Ole Miss was on top again.
Auburn’s offense was unable to get things going to answer back on the ensuing drive and was forced to punt it back to an Ole Miss team with a full head of steam.
When the Rebel offense came on the field, they marched downfield 68 yards to the endzone once again. The Ole Miss ground game moved the ball well, and Dart connected with Tre Harris for a big 36-yard gain. The drive was capped off with a Quinshon Judkins 4-yard rushing touchdown, and the Rebels were up by 14.
Things didn’t get better for Auburn when the offense took the field. Thorne and company were finding some success and worked their way into Ole Miss territory. On 2nd and 6 from the Ole Miss 22, Thorne was looking for a receiver in the double-covered endzone, and Zamari Walton intercepted the ball for Ole Miss in the endzone.
The Auburn defense did their job, forcing a quick three and out as the clock winded down. When the offense retook the field, the Tigers offense came to life. Thorne connected with Hunter on a screen pass, and Hunter took it 47 yards down to the Ole Miss 25. That set up a Thorne pass to Rivaldo Fairweather in the endzone, bringing Auburn within a touchdown.
The Tigers tried the on-side kick with 56 seconds remaining, but the Rebels recovered it, and Auburn fell short once again, dropping fourth in a row and falling to 3-4 on the season.
Next up for Auburn is a matchup with Mississippi State on Oct. 28th. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.
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