For the second time in as many games, No. 18 Auburn (6-2, 3-1 SEC) took down a ranked SEC West foe. Two weeks ago, the Arkansas Razorbacks fell victim to the Tigers, and tonight, in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium, it was No. 10 Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2 SEC) falling at the hands of the Tigers by a 31-20 margin. The Tigers controlled the game from start to finish in front of a raucous home crowd as they never trailed after scoring a touchdown on their opening possession. After the offense carried the team in the first half, it was the defense’s turn to carry the load in a low scoring second half. Despite the offense struggling a bit in the second half, Auburn was able to run out the clock in crunch time with some big first downs on the ground. More importantly, Auburn is also in control of their own destiny in the SEC West as one of only two teams left in the division with only one loss in league play entering a pivotal stretch of league games in the month of November.
The game was a tale of two halves. The two offenses combined for 45 points in the first half, as the defenses were left searching for answers. Going into the intermission the Tigers had a two-score lead – 28-17. However, in the second half, it turned into a defensive minded game as each team was held to a single field goal in the final thirty minutes. Both teams missed out on multiple other scoring opportunities in the second half. Ole Miss threw an interception in the end zone and was stopped three times on fourth down deep in Auburn territory. Auburn missed a field goal following their opening second half drive and also fumbled the ball away twice in the second half.
The Auburn defense held Ole Miss to their lowest scoring total all season as they only allowed 20 points which is less than half what the Rebels had been averaging on the season. Auburn also held Ole Miss to 157 yards on the ground which is more than 100 yards below the Rebels’ average output on the ground. The Tigers’ defense was at their best on fourth down, holding Ole Miss to a one of four mark on fourth down conversions. Auburn also recorded three sacks, including a career high two from Zakoby McClain, and had the aforementioned interception by Jaylin Simpson in the fourth quarter.
The Auburn offense wasted little time in getting going in the first half. Auburn scored touchdowns on four of their five first half drives. Bo Nix got the scoring started via his legs on a beautifully designed quarterback sweep on Auburn’s first drive. Later in the first quarter Tank Bigsby leaped over the top from a yard out to extend Auburn’s advantage to 14-3. Nix added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, one on the ground and one through the air to Jarquez Hunter. The touchdown pass to Hunter gave Auburn a 28-17 lead just 11 seconds before halftime. Both of the Rebels’ first half touchdowns came on the ground, one from Snoop Connor and one from Matt Corral.
Ole Miss’s star quarterback, Matt Corral, briefly left the game in the first quarter after hurting his ankle while under pressure from the Auburn defense. After getting his ankle retaped, Corral returned and did not seem to have any lingering effects from the injury. Corral certainly had his moments against the Tigers, throwing for 289 yards and rushing for 45 yards and a touchdown, but the Auburn defense made plays when they had to.
Tank Bigsby returned to form on the evening taking 23 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown. As a team, Auburn accumulated 207 rushing yards while averaging four and a half yards per carry. Bo Nix completed 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. Kobe Hudson led the Tigers’ receiving corps with six catches for 79 yards. Both marks set new career highs for Hudson. Demetris Robertson turned three catches into 55 yards and had the longest play of the game with a 35-yard grab.
Zakoby McClain led the defense with 14 total tackles and also added two sacks. Zion Puckett and Smoke Monday both recorded nine total tackles, while Monday also recorded the third sack for the Tigers’ defense. Roger McCreary had two key pass breakups in the second half on third down plays for the Auburn defense.
For Auburn, it was their sixth straight win against Ole Miss and improved their record to 20-0 all time when playing Ole Miss as a ranked team. It was Auburn’s first win against a top 10 opponent since taking down No. 5 Alabama in the 2019 Iron Bowl.
The Tigers have another pivotal SEC West showdown next Saturday when they travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. When the first college playoff rankings come out, it will likely be a matchup between top 15 teams. Auburn seems to be rounding into form at the right time to impress the college football playoff committee. Kickoff time will be determined tomorrow for that game.