12:30 PM ET, October 28, 2006
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, OXFORD, MS
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- The Auburn Tigers barely slipped out of another Southeastern Conference road trap.
The seventh-ranked Tigers turned the ball over, committed costly penalties and gave up several big plays Saturday, but still managed to get past gritty Mississippi 23-17 on late field goals by John Vaughn.
"All of them are on scholarship and all of them are Division I players," Auburn linebacker Quentin Groves said. "If you go out there (with the attitude) that, 'OK, this is going to be an easy win,' you're going to be in for a dog fight."
The Tigers (8-1, 5-1 SEC) trailed the Rebels (2-7, 1-5) twice. But Auburn intercepted Brent Schaeffer twice in the third quarter and turned them into 10 points. Vaughn set a school record with his 47th career field goal to pull away late.
Vaughn's 20-yarder put the Tigers up for good with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter and his 29-yarder sealed it with 35 seconds left, transforming a sloppy performance into an Auburn victory.
The win was the Tigers' 21st in their last 23 regular-season SEC games and kept their conference and national title hopes alive. The last time Auburn played a road game, the Tigers escaped South Carolina with a 24-17 victory last month.
Auburn had little trouble moving the ball against Ole Miss with 428 total yards and a season-high 253 yards passing by Brandon Cox. Kenny Irons added 106 yards rushing and Courtney Taylor caught eight passes for 108 yards.
But the Tigers committed an array of mistakes that allowed the Rebels to flirt with the upset. They tied a season-high with two turnovers, dropped several passes, committed nine penalties for 84 yards, also season highs, and gave up 81 yards on three passes to Ole Miss tight ends.
"I think that the talent level in this conference right now, I don't think there's that big of a difference," Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. "I don't think that there's any one team that's so much better than everyone else.
"I think that when you go on the road in this league, you can expect to grind a win out."
It wasn't until Eric Brock and Aairon Savage picked off Schaeffer on consecutive drives in Rebels territory that Auburn began to rally after a 7-7 halftime tie.
Brock's interception set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Brad Lester that made the score 14-10 with 5:50 left in the third quarter. Savage set up Vaughn's first field goal from 31 yards out with 55 second left in the third.
"Turnovers are the death of a football team," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, a former head man at Ole Miss. "We were fortunate. ... Turnovers are motivators, especially when you are on the road."
But Ole Miss, with a couple of assists from Auburn, wasn't finished. Schaeffer tied the score at 17-17 with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lawrence Lilly at 12:06 in the fourth quarter. The play was set up by a late hit on Schaeffer and defensive holding in the end zone.
A 45-yard kickoff return by Tristan Davis and a 20-yard pass by Cox on third down set up Vaughn's 20-yarder to make it 20-17.
The Rebels opened the game with a crisp 81-yard drive that put them up 7-0 with just 2:43 gone in the game. Tailback Mico McSwain lined up in the slot on the left side of the line and scored untouched on a 27-yard end around that seemed to catch Auburn by surprise.
Auburn answered with a bruising 15-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 7:46. Cox was 6-for-6 on the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rodgeriqus Smith with 4:31 left in the first quarter.
The Rebels spent the rest of the half playing opportunistic defense. They killed one Tigers' drive with an interception by Charles Clark at their own 12. It was the first interception throw by Cox in 113 attempts.
Then Ole Miss ended Auburn's final drive of the half when defensive end Greg Hardy stripped Lester and recovered the fumble at the Rebels' 35.
It was the second time this season the Rebels pressed a top 10 team into the fourth quarter, only to fall to a single-digit loss. They lost to then-No. 10 Georgia 14-9, and also lost 26-23 to Alabama in overtime.
"This shows everyone who watched the game that Ole Miss is coming," said Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, the SEC's leading tackler who made 15 stops. "We are right around the corner, and we will turn that corner. We can play with anybody, and we'll come out and compete no matter who they are or what they are ranked."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Auburn kicker John Vaughn hit his second field goal of the fourth quarter, essentially icing the game.
Gameball goes to... Brandon Cox. Despite a red-zone interception -- his first pick in 113 attempts -- Cox was steady, throwing for 253 yards and a score.
Stat of the game... 37:52. That was Auburn's time of possession thanks to a stiff defense and the running of Kenny Irons that helped close out the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-14||2-7|
|4th Down Conversions||3-3||0-0|
|TD||12:17||MICO MCSWAIN 27 YD RUN (JOSHUA SHENE KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 81 yards.
|TD||4:31||RODGERIQUS SMITH 13 YD PASS FROM BRANDON COX (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 15 plays, 69 yards.
|FG||10:26||JOSHUA SHENE 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 41 yards.
|TD||5:50||BRAD LESTER 6 YD RUN (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 41 yards.
|FG||0:55||JOHN VAUGHN 31 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 38 yards.
|TD||12:06||LAWRENCE LILLY 3 YD PASS FROM BRENT SCHAEFFER (JOSHUA SHENE KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards.
|FG||7:35||JOHN VAUGHN 20 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 51 yards.
|FG||0:35||JOHN VAUGHN 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 49 yards.