The Ole Miss football team showed heart, but was unable to come back from a first half deficit and it cost them in a 31-20 defeat at No. 18 Auburn in primetime at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night.
Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2 SEC) and Auburn (6-2, 3-1 SEC) were nearly even on the stat sheet, with the Tigers holding a slight 483-464 edge in total offense, but the game was won in the second half, as Auburn possessed the ball for six more minutes than the Rebels and held onto its 28-17 halftime lead in a back half that featured just six combined points.
Matt Corral fought through an early injury but returned, ending the day 21-of-37 for 289 yards through the air while tallying 45 yards and a score on 10 rushes. Jahcour Pearson and Casey Kelly each had career nights, with both hauling in seven passes for 135 and 81 yards, respectively. On the ground, Henry Parrish Jr. had 57 yards on 12 carries while Snoop Conner had one of two Rebel touchdowns on the night.
Defensively, AJ Finley led the Rebels with 10 tackles, followed by Mark Robinson’s nine. Sam Williams and Tylan Knight each had a sack while the defense forced two turnovers. Ole Miss held Auburn to three second half points, but the Rebels were also only able to muster a second half field goal themselves while going 4-for-8 in the red zone on the night.
Auburn’s offense took the field first and immediately came away with points. After converting an early fourth down attempt, quarterback Bo Nix called his own number and scored an 11-yard touchdown run. After the smooth 11-play, 82-yard drive, the Tigers had a 7-0 lead just under five minutes into the opening quarter. Corral and company responded with an impressive drive of their own, but ultimately had to settle for three. Caden Costa’s 29-yard field goal made it a 7-3 ball game with 6:31 left in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Auburn running back Tank Bigsby leapt over the Rebel defense and scored a goal line TD, giving Auburn a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter. Ole Miss suffered a setback not long after, with Corral leaving the game with a foot injury, forcing the Rebels to punt the ball away down two scores.
Sam Williams gave the Rebels a much needed momentum boost, sacking Nix on the next drive to give new quarterback Luke Altmyer a full drive. Altmyer threw his first collegiate completion to John Rhys Plumlee and went 5-of-5 before Corral came out of the locker room and re-entered at QB. On the Auburn 27-yard line, Parrish converted a 4th-and-2 before Conner scored a 13-yard touchdown, cutting the Auburn lead to 14-10 with 8:19 left in the second.
The Tigers then took advantage of Ole Miss penalties and a big 35-yard catch by Demetris Robertson, as Nix found the endzone again from seven yards out to extend back out to a 21-10 lead with 6:20 to go in the half.
Ole Miss lost Dontario Drummond on the next drive to injury, but Corral continued to show grit, going 6-for-6 on the drive and notching an 11-yard TD run to make it a 21-17 game. However, Nix responded in kind again, leading an efficient drive through the air that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jarquez Hunter to give the Tigers a 28-17 halftime lead.
Both quarterbacks finished the first half completing 12 of 15 passes with some damage done on the ground. However, the difference at that point was Nix’s three touchdowns.
After the Rebels went three-and-out coming out of the locker room, Auburn looked as if they were going to extend their lead. Instead, the Rebels caught a break with Anders Carlson’s 43-yard field goal attempt bouncing off the right upright. Ole Miss caught yet another break after going three-and-out again as Knight pounced on a muffed punt at the Auburn 29-yard line. On 4th-and-1, though, Corral’s pass to Kelly in the flat fell incomplete and Auburn took over at their own 20.
Penalties doomed the Rebels inside the Tiger red zone after a handful of first down catches by Pearson. Despite that, Ole Miss came away with second half points after Costa drilled a 49-yard field goal to make it a one score, 28-20 Auburn lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
Going into the final quarter of play, the Tigers used a fourth down conversion to go up two possessions again. Carlson connected on a 28-yard field goal to give Auburn a 31-20 lead with 10:52 left to play. Conner and Kelly carried the Rebels again to the Auburn red zone, but a rare Corral interception in the end zone stymied yet another opportunity. It didn’t take long for Ole Miss to get another one as Deantre Prince stripped the ball from Kobe Hudson and Campbell fell on it near midfield, but the Auburn defense held firm and ran out the clock for the victory.
The Rebels return to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium next Saturday, November 6, where they will look to rebound against the Liberty Flames. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CT and can be seen on SEC Network or listened to on the Ole Miss Radio Network.