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Third quarter woes continue as Rebels fall on the Plains

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 

AUBURN, Ala. — Despite trying to change things up this week, the result in this weekend’s Ole Miss game remained the same as the No. 23 Auburn Tigers scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to win 41-23 over the Rebels Saturday night on the Plains of Auburn. It was Ole Miss’ 11th straight Southeastern Conference loss, dating back to last season.

“I was proud of how hard they played,” head coach Houston Nutt said. “You just can’t turn the ball over, especially away from home in this kind of environment. You can’t turn the ball over and give them gifts of field position.”

At first, Saturday’s game looked remarkably similar to the previous two games against Alabama and Arkansas when the Rebels won the coin toss and elected to receive in hopes of getting off to a good start.

However, this week things went differently than the Ole Miss coaches would have hoped for.

Freshman wide receiver Nickolas Brassell fumbled the ball in the opening possession of the game to give the Tigers a short field. Auburn (6-3, 4-2 SEC) took advantage of the good field position, and sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley connected with junior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 13-yard yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.

The touchdown pass was the first of Moseley’s career, but it certainly wouldn’t be his last. The Tigers struck again on their next possession when Moseley threw another touchdown pass, this one to senior wide receiver Quindarius Carr from 45 yards.

Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5 SEC) responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive to cut the Tiger lead to 14-7. Senior running back Brandon Bolden broke a 38-yard run, and on the next play, powered his way in from one yard out.

On the ensuing possession, sophomore linebacker Mike Marry forced a fumble, which was recovered by senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett. The turnover set up a 39-yard field goal from the leg of junior Bryson Rose to narrow the Rebels deficit to 14-10. Rose is now 5-of-5 for the season and has made 15 straight field goals.

Lockett looked like himself for the first time all season on Saturday. The sixth-year senior totaled six tackles, one tackle for a loss and recovered two fumbles.

“Coach and I have been talking all week, and he said I was going to play today,” Lockett said. “I wanted a couple of plays to get into a groove. That’s what happened, and I was able to be productive.”

Later in the half, Randall Mackey’s only interception gave Auburn a prime scoring chance, but the offense stalled and settled for a 41-yard field goal from sophomore Cody Parkey to regain a touchdown lead at 17-10.

The Rebels responded again with a nine-play, 60-yard drive that Bolden finished with another one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 17 apiece, which is where it would stand at the half.

Bolden finished the day with his best performance of the season as well as he racked up 114 rushing yards on only 13 carries and two touchdown runs. 

The Baton Rouge, La., native also moved into fourth place all-time with 2,419 rushing yards, passing Dou Innocent. He also passed Mike Wallace for third all-time with 3,405 all-purpose yards. On Saturday night, Bolden looked healthier than he has in a long time.

“It showed its face again,” Bolden said of the Ole Miss rushing game. “Everybody did a good job (carrying) the ball. The offensive line was coming off the ball and creating more than one lane. The hardest part of running the ball was picking which lane to run through.”

Then, there was the third quarter.

Nutt brought his guys out earlier than usual to do some warm-up exercises in hopes of his team putting together their first full game of the season.

“Just trying to get a spark going in the third quarter,” Nutt said. “We came out earlier and really made a point all week to play a good third quarter. We were going to get loose, stretch, do whatever we needed to do and make sure we all did it at once.”

But unfortunately for Ole Miss, those antics didn’t work, and it was the same story as the previous two weeks against Alabama and Arkansas.

Midway through the third quarter, Auburn broke the tie on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Moseley to junior wide receiver Emory Blake. Later in the quarter, Dyer, who finished the day with 177 yards on 27 carries, scored on a five-yard touchdown run as the third quarter came to a close.

“Throughout the second half, we made some mistakes that good football teams don’t do in order to beat a good football team,” defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “I thought that was the difference. They capitalized on the mistakes that we made. If it was due to a miss fit on the run or a mistake in the coverage, they capitalized on it and made it a big play for Auburn.”

Barely into the fourth quarter, Mackey fumbled the ball on an attempted handoff to Bolden, which the Tigers pounced on. The turnover set up a 31-yard field goal from Parkey to extend Auburn’s lead to 34-17.

The Tigers’ next possession saw Moseley throw his fourth touchdown pass. This one went to Lutzenkirchen, his second touchdown of the game, who caught the ball one-handed and dove into the end zone for the four-yard score. Moseley finished the game 12-of-15 passing for 160 yards and four touchdowns.

In desperation mode, Mackey, who finished 15-of-27 passing for 157 yards, found Brassell on the last play of the game to put the last points on the board.

This Saturday, the Rebels travel to Kentucky, who are also winless in conference play, in hopes of snapping their 11-game SEC losing streak and keeping their slim bowl chances alive. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU.