The 18th ranked Ole Miss Rebels visited the Auburn on Saturday afternoon, and picked up the tough road win by a score of 27-19. This game stayed rather competitive throughout, as the SEC's worst scoring defense held the league's best scoring offense well-below their season average. Auburn's offense also connected on a few big plays, rare this season, that gave the Tigers scoring opportunities, but an early fourth quarter by Laquon Treadwell put the game out of reach for upset-minded Auburn.
Auburn ended up starting quarterback Sean White after some conflicting reporting regarding his availability due to a leg injury. White completed 12-of-28 passes en route to 258 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Tiger offense benefited from several explosive plays that either resulted in touchdowns or field goals. However, as the explosive plays happened less in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were hard-pressed to keep up with the Rebels. While many Tiger faithful will question the play-calling, especially in the red zone, there were probably enough dropped passes by the receivers for their criticisms to take hold.
Auburn's defense gave up 558 yards, but their performance was better than the numbers on paper. The return of defensive ace Carl Lawson had an impact in the first half, as his pass-rushing prowess forced some bad throws and mandated Ole Miss keep extra blockers in the box instead of running routes. Blake Countess also made several big plays to include an interception. Overall, the defense ceded a lot of territory, but it prevented points with the best example probably being a 4th down stop on the five yard line in the third quarter. Sophomore kicker Daniel Carson also continued his highly efficient ways by landing four field goals, including one from 52 yards.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, won a tough road game Saturday in impressive fashion. The Rebels started slow, for which Auburn's defense should get some praise, but began to pick-up yards and points in the second half. Quarterback Chad Kelly was fine, throwing for 381 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, but his scrambling ability picked up several first downs keeping drives alive. He's also gifted with elite receiving talent in Treadwell but also Damore'ea Stringfellow, and Evan Engram.
Running back Jaylen Walton also had a great game rushing for 78 yards while adding 47 yards receiving. Treadwell exorcised the ghosts of last year's game against Auburn with his seven receptions for 114 yards, and game-clinching touchdown. Also, on a trick play, Treadwell completed a pass that saw him avoiding multiple pass-rushers while keeping his eyes downfield. Treadwell might have a better pocket presence than at least 50% of the SEC's starting quarterbacks.
The Ole Miss defense did not play it's best game, allowing 427 yards of total Auburn offense. Having said that, the Rebel defense did it's own bending-but-not-breaking, and held Auburn to three field goals on three of their trips to the red zone including a goal-line stand in the second half. These stands were the key to winning this game. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche continued his Heisman campaign folding the pocket and generally being disruptive throughout. against an underrated offensive line.
Nkemdiche was joined by his defensive running mates Marquis Haynes, Fadol Brown, and Tony Bridges in pestering Auburn's offense Saturday afternoon. Haynes in particular had two sacks, and three tackles for loss. The Rebels near-term future looks bright with defensive play-makers on the line, but also in the secondary.
Auburn moves to 4-4 on the season but seemingly appears to be improving. A postseason berth still seems possible given the return of Carl Lawson and the development of Sean White and Ricardo Louis. Ole Miss now moves to 7-2 and has defeated both Alabama and Auburn on the road in 2015. The Rebels remain are firmly in the SEC West title hunt which also means making college football's play-off isn't out of the question.