3:30 PM ET, November 8, 2003
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Mississippi got the drive, the drop and the huge win -- a scintillating blend of clutch plays and breaks that pushed the Rebels a step closer to their first SEC Western Division title.
Three Auburn defenders had trouble bringing down Ole Miss' Chris Collins (center) during the Rebels' 24-20 victory.
The Rebels (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today) moved to 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1962, propelled by a six-game winning streak and the arm of Eli Manning.
"This is the reason I came back for my senior year, to lead this team to Atlanta," said Manning, who can make final travel plans for the SEC championship game with a win in two weeks over No. 4 LSU.
Ole Miss (8-2) pulled off only its second victory over the fading Tigers (6-4, 4-2) in the last 11 meetings. Despite two first-half touchdown passes, Manning was having a mediocre afternoon by his standards until a brilliant, 80-yard drive in the final minutes.
Two plays later, Manning set up first-and-goal at the 1 with a 2-yard sneak on third down, and Jacobs jumped into the end zone on the next play.
"When my number was called, I knew I was going to score and I did," Jacobs said. "This team is about different players stepping up and making plays each night.
"Our goal from the start is to win the West and we are in control of that now."
A little late luck propelled the Rebels on their way.
Auburn and Jason Campbell -- leader of the league's worst passing offense -- went to work against the nation's 115th-rated pass defense after Jacobs' TD plunge.
The Tigers drove all the way to the 3, thanks mostly to a terrific 50-yard catch-and-run by Obomanu. On third-and-2, Campbell rolled right and, with two defenders in pursuit, spotted a wide-open Obomanu in the end zone.
The ball hit the sophomore receiver on his No. 2 and bounced off, spoiling his best career game. On fourth down, a nearly identical play ended with Campbell forced to loft it toward Jeris McIntyre, but Eric Oliver batted it away at the last second.
"I really haven't dropped a pass in practice or anything for about two weeks now," said Obomanu, who had a 68-yard touchdown among six catches for 150 yards. "It hurts real bad, of course.
"I was right there in good position, wide open in the back of the end zone."
He said he misjudged the ball and started to leap when he didn't need to.
"He made a heck of a run to get us down there," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "He gave us a chance. That's all you can say."
The loss killed the SEC title hopes for the Tigers, heavy preseason favorites after entering the season ranked No. 6 only to wind up a candidate for the year's biggest flop.
They've gone from talking titles to hoping for a decent bowl trip.
"Unfortunately, we are knocked out of Atlanta," said tailback Carnell Williams, who ran for 103 yards and a touchdown. "We should be able to win our next two and go to a pretty good bowl."
Ole Miss has its first six-game winning streak since getting seven straight victories in 1990, and the fans remained in their seats cheering the Rebels well after the final whistle.
Every other Western Division team has won the division, and Manning and Co. might be poised to join them.
"We saw 15-20 plays that if we hadn't made them, we wouldn't have had a chance to win that football game," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said.
"I can't say enough about how good (Manning) played tonight.
Manning was 19-of-30 for 218 yards and two touchdowns but Ole Miss controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes against the league's No. 2 rushing team.
Unable to get their running game going, the Tigers finally went deep against the Rebels' porous pass defense late in the third quarter. Campbell's pass was deflected right into Obomanu's hands for the 68-yard touchdown to give Auburn a 17-14 lead with 2:06 left. It was the team's longest pass play of the season.
The Rebels tied it early in the fourth on a 42-yard field goal by Jonathan Nichols.
Auburn's Philip Yost then kicked his second field goal, a 30-yarder, with 10:45 remaining but would push a 32-yarder wide left a few minutes later.