“It’s exciting to see those seniors out there enjoying the moment of clinching the SEC West and now having a chance to play for the SEC Championship,” said sophomore wide receiver Courtney Taylor.
“We know we have a lot more work to do, starting with our next game against Georgia, but we are going to enjoy what we accomplished so far,” Taylor added during the celebration that lasted long after the final whistle Saturday night.
A 35-14 victory at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium sends Auburn to Atlanta on Dec. 4th to play in the SEC Championship Game. AU officials are expected to announce how tickets can be purchased on Monday.
Big games by Carnell Williams (237 all purpose yards), the Auburn pass rush (seven sacks), punter Kody Bliss (48.8 net yards on six punts) and Ronnie Brown (100 rushing yards on 16 carries plus one catch for 14 yards) sparked the Tigers to their ninth straight victory this season and a chance to move up in the national polls after Miami was upset on Saturday night by North Carolina.
“We knew about that Miami game on the sidelines and that was good news for us,” said Taylor, whose team was ranked third and fourth in the major polls and fourth in the BCS rankings this week.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said at times it looked like his team was “running on fumes” as the Tigers played their ninth straight game without an off week, which they will get this coming week.
“I told the players afterwards, this game was for the seniors,” Tuberville said. “We challenged the younger guys this week to play for the seniors. We knew everybody was going to play to play well for us to have a chance to win on the road.
“Obviously, when I come back here we get their best shot,” added Tuberville, the former Ole Miss head coach. “If you are going to be a top-ranked you have to go on the road and win games like this. I saw some teams in the Top 10 who didn’t do as well on the road today. You just have to be consistent. every week, and they continue to make good plays.
“Jason (Campbell) didn’t have his best first half, but he just kept making good plays and got better as he went along.”
Running back Carnell Williams fights for yardage against the Rebels on a 57 yard reception Saturday night.
After the game, Campbell told Al Borges, the offensive coordinator, that was his worst game of the season. Borges said he was proud of the effort from his senior quarterback who hit 11-22 passes for 234 yards with one TD and one interception. “If that is his worst game of the season, I will take that,” noted Borges, who said that Ole Miss deserves credit for playing exceptionally hard for four quarters.
“That was a battle out there from start to finish,” Borges said. “It was one of those nights we just couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense, but we were able to make enough plays to win the game.”
Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik had a similar point of view. “It wasn’t pretty, but I am so proud of our guys,” he said. “They showed a lot of guts out there and battled to the end.”
For just the second time this year, Auburn didn’t score on its opening possession. As was the case when it happened vs. The Citadel, a fumble was the culprit. That came on the second play after Taylor caught a 35-yard pass from Campbell. This fumble came on a snap exchange between Campbell and junior Steven Ross, who was starting for injured senior Jeremy Ingle.
Auburn turned the ball over on downs at the end of the first quarter after getting a first and goal at the Ole Miss three on a 45-yard run by Brown. Brown was stopped for one-yard gain on two runs and then two incomplete passes turned the ball over to the Rebels.
Ole Miss then put together a strong drive, moving all the way to a third and inches at the Tiger seven-yard line with backup QB Robert Lane doing much of the damage with his running. However, the Rebels took a fourth quarter gamble and just like Auburn they came away without points. Free safety Will Herring hit tailback Brandon Jacobs in the backfield for a loss of a yard to end the threat.
Auburn couldn’t get the ball off the goal line and punted back to the Rebels, who punted Auburn into a hole inside the Tiger one-yard line. However, the Tigers didn’t stay there long.
Campbell got the first scoring drive jump-started with a 24-yard pass to Taylor. On the eighth play of the possession, Campbell scored the TD on a QB sneak from inside the one-yard line with 26 seconds left in the half. The ball came loose and was recovered by Williams at the five, but the officials ruled the quarterback had broken the plane before losing control of the ball.
In the first half the AU offense managed to gain 229 yards, but looked out of sync at times. Ole Miss controlled the ball for 19:31 to 10:29 for the Tigers. The Rebels totaled 189 yards by halftime, with 110 coming through the air with Ethan Flatt throwing for 63 and Lane passing for 47.
Campbell was 6-13 for 131 yards in the first half, but missed several receivers on the kind of plays he has been making consistently all season.
Auburn picked up in the third quarter where it left off just before intermission. The Tigers raced 76 yards in just four plays. After not moving the ball on two runs by Williams, Campbell threw to Taylor and a pass interference call on Travis Johnson put the ball at the AU 40. On the next play, Williams caught a ball in the flat, made a defender missed and raced down the sideline to the Ole Miss three.
On the next play, Brown scored up the middle, standing up as he plowed into the end zone. That gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 13:02 left in the third quarter.
After Auburn couldn’t move on its next possession, Ole Miss did something about the two-touchdown deficit. On third and 15, Flatt threw a deep sideline route to wide receiver Bill Flowers and hit the senior in stride as he got behind Montae Pitts. The 64-yard play with 6:50 left in the third quarter cut the lead to 14-7.
The offense went three and out following the kickoff after starting at first and 20 at its own 10 with a pair of illegal procedure penalties. Bliss turned the field position in Auburn’s favor with a long punt and an 11-yard loss by Mike Espy on the return. The Tigers got the ball back at the Ole Miss 44 when Will Herring intercepted a pass that was thrown under a big rush from linebacker Kevin Sears.
The Rebels tightened the lead to a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Flatt’s 25-yard TD pass to Tay Biddle made the score 21-14 to cap a drive that covered 84 yards on seven plays.
The Cadillac came through with a big play on special teams to set up the next touchdown. His 38-yard punt return set up a three-play, 25-yard scoring drive.
Two strong runs by Brown gave the Tigers first and goal inside the Rebel one. Campbell scored on the next play on a QB sneak. That put Auburn ahead 28-14 with 12:29 left in the game.
Another punt return by the Cadillac, plus a 15-yard facemask penalty and a late hit, put the ball on the Ole Miss 13. However, three plays later, a Campbell pass to Ben Obomanu was underthrown and intercepted in the end zone with 9:18 left.
Auburn did get the extra insurance touchdown though. The Cadillac raced in for 29 yards out with 5:33 left after linebacker Karibi Dede recovered a fumble forced by defensive end Stanley McClover, who had one of seven Auburn sacks on the play. McClover was credited with two sacks while Quentin Groves, Travis Williams, Wayne Dickens, Doug Langenfeld and Antarious Williams got one sack apiece.
Defensive end Langenfeld, one of the happy seniors celebrating the victory, said, “This is big for our seniors, the whole team and the whole coaching staff. We have worked so hard for this.”
Auburn is off next week before playing the Georgia Bulldogs the following week at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Game Notes: Auburn’s one touchdown was its lowest scoring outpoint of the season with the exception of the LSU game when the Tigers had three at halftime...For the fourth time this year, an Auburn opponent did not score any first half points...Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said, “They are a really good team offensively, and you are not going to completely shut them down. Field position worked against us. They built some momentum they they got a little bit of a lead. It is hard to contain those type of weapons.”...It was Auburn’s sixth straight football victory in Oxford...Jason Campbell moved into second place in AU passing history with 6,313, moving past Pat Sullivan’s total of 6,284.