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The Final Whistle: Ole Miss gifted chance to win, loses to Auburn 20-14

What just happened?

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Ole Miss lost to No. 11 Auburn 20-14 on Saturday night, in a game that was beyond explanation.

The Rebels received the opening kickoff, immediately lost running back Scottie Phillips and offensive guard Ben Brown to ankle injuries, and were stopped on 4th-and-3.

It was to be a long night offensively, but Mike MacIntyre’s defense did its job once again, and kept Ole Miss in the game.

The first half saw Auburn quarterback Bo Nix throw for 237 yards against a weak secondary, but it’s hard not to when the Tigers’ time of possession was nearly double that of the Rebels. The ‘exalted’ Auburn backfield was held under 100 yards, and just one run broke beyond 10 yards. More impressively, the defense forced punts on five of Auburn’s eight third-down attempts, and field goals on three drives inside the 35-yard-line.

Only one of two gift-wrapped fumbles was recovered by Ole Miss, and Keidron Smith dropped an interception in his breadbasket, but Auburn missed two field goals— comme ci comme ça. The defense did just about all it could.

On offense, it was a nightmare.

Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez called a run-run-pass sequence that went nowhere, and Mac Brown came on to punt. Then, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez dialed up run-pass-pass sequence that went nowhere, and Mac Brown came on to punt. Next, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez composed a run-run-pass sequence that went nowhere, and Mac Brown came on to punt. From there, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez turned to a run-pass-pass sequence that went nowhere, and Mac Brown came on to punt.

The frustrating theme of predictable, bland, and unoriginal play-calling continued to flounder with both John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral behind center, and Ole Miss continued to punt. Plumlee, the running quarterback, was unable to complete passes, and Corral, the throwing quarterback, had the same amount of run plays as he did completions.

Yet, because of a 55-yard Elijah Moore punt return, Ole Miss had a chance to score before the half. Three plays later, Plumlee scurried to the edge for six.

Not including the 23-yard scoring drive, the Rebels had 103 yards offense in the first half, but faced just a three-point deficit at halftime. Who even knows...

The third quarter was nearly identical to the first half. Ole Miss gained 31 total yards with the ball, while the defense played hard.

Auburn made locker room adjustments (something Matt Luke and Rodriguez have yet to figure out), and drove down the field for a touchdown. Ole Miss made their counterparts work, and can’t be expected to keep scoreless on every possession. Even allowing points, MacIntyre’s group continued to impress.

Rodriguez needed to counter. He did not. The Rebels punted.

The Tigers would go on to add a field goal after Qaadir Shepard kept a drive alive with an unacceptable personal foul, and took a 20-7 lead.

Despite all of Rodriguez’s efforts to lose the game, down two scores early in the fourth quarter, the offense drove 91-yards and punched it in on a Snoop Conner bowling-ball run from the goal line.

And then it got interesting.

As Auburn tried to close out the game, MacIntyre’s group dug deep and forced another fourth down inside the 35-yard-line. Head coach Gus Malzahn sent out his kicker, who missed two field goals beyond 40 yards in the first half, to put the nail in the coffin.

He missed wide right, and somehow, Ole Miss had the ball with 1:14, and a chance to win the game. After a couple of quick downfield dimes from the quarterback who couldn’t hit the side of a barn all game, it was 4th-and-ballgame from the Auburn 35-yard-line.

Plumlee had nowhere to go, and Ole Miss lost.