For a half, neither Auburn (6-2, 4-1 SEC) nor Ole Miss (3-5, 1-4 SEC) could stop the other, but Auburn got a few key stops and a fourth quarter interception to beat Ole Miss 40-29 to pick up a road win.
Neither team punted in the first half as the game looked to be headed towards a shootout, but the now all too familiar second half struggles for Ole Miss reared their head in the second half again. Ole Miss picked up yards in the second half, but failed to convert a fourth and one inside the five yard line which would have given the Rebels a nine point lead early in the second half.
As it turned out, even picking up a touchdown on that drive would not have been enough of a lead as Ole Miss again failed to put up anything resembling a run defense. Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway ran for a career high of 236 yards on 30 carries including a 56 yard first half touchdown.
Three Things We Learned:
1) Chad Kelly IS Ole Miss’ Offense
Chad Kelly accounted for over 88 percent of Ole Miss’ offense tonight as he threw for an Ole Miss record 465 passing yards (breaking Archie Manning’s record dating back to 1969) and tacked on another 40 rushing yards. Behind a patchwork, injury-riddled offensive line, Kelly stood in the pocket strongly and offered the only chance of picking up yards and points.
That is what makes Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss coaching staff’s decision making to take Kelly out of the game in short yardage, goal line situations all the more baffling. Kelly was replaced by Jason Pellerin on the failed third quarter series inside the ten and Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs after a pair of Pellerin runs failed to pick up a single yard when everyone in the stadium and watching at home knew that Pellerin was going to run the ball.
And this is not a criticism of Pellerin as no one has been able to consistently pickup ground yardage behind the Ole Miss offensive line, rather a confusing use of personnel by the coaching staff to take the ball out of the hands of their best playmaker.
2) Back to Basics for Auburn
Since Auburn turned over playcalling to Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s rushing game has had undergone its’ revitalization and has picked up at least 225 yards in each of the last four games. Pettway has been the primary beneficiary and is nearing the 1,000 yard mark for the season already.
With his 236 yards tonight, Pettway has gained over 100 yards in each of his games this year except for LSU (he did not have a carry against Clemson or Louisiana Monroe). The key part of the running game, though, has seemed to be the simplicity. Gone is the overly complex running plays and, instead, the Auburn offense is simply gashing defensive lines and pounding ahead.
Then after doing that, the Tigers call up something like the tackle eligible play ran early in the second half that was run to perfection for a touchdown pass.
3) Massive Iron Bowl?
Auburn has strung together five consecutive wins now and with Vanderbilt, a Georgia team that can not move the ball now and in-state FCS foe Alabama A&M, the Tigers should go into the Iron Bowl 9-2 after a 1-2 start.
The Tigers still have a shot in the West and, if they were to win in Tuscaloosa and the SEC Championship Game, would potentially be a big test for the College Football Playoff committee to see if they would send Auburn to the playoff as a two loss SEC champion.
Of course, there are several games to play before we get there, but who would have thought that after the loss to Texas A&M and a 1-2 start that this could even be a conversation at the beginning of November.