A few notes and observations from the Rebels' 41-23 loss to Auburn …
The first time the Rebels were blown away in the third quarter this year it was against Alabama. So, that game gets an asterisk because of the wide gap in talent between the programs.
Then the Rebels were outscored 19-0 by Arkansas and last night 14-0 by Auburn.
Ole Miss had two possessions in the third quarter, each marred by penalties. The first possession was three-and-out and included an ineligible receiver downfield on third down.
On the second possession the Rebels crossed the 50, reaching the Auburn 48, but on third-and-8 Randall Mackey was called for intentional grounding. The play lost 20 yards.
Auburn opened the third with a three-and-out, as defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix noted, but the Tigers' next two possessions were far more productive, a 66-yard touchdown drive and a 70-yard touchdown drive, both featuring the running of Michael Dyer.
“I would say they made an adjustment or two,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said.
Dyer wasn't exactly dominant in the first half. He had 61 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry – very good numbers – but the Rebels also tackled better. Some of those tackles were solo stops that negated a potential big play.
Dyer, however, hit the big play in the second half, a 48-yard run, and had 116 yards in the last two quarters.
“I don't know what Michael Dyer did the second half, but we came out and had the three-and-out, that the positive performance of the second half. We had the mindset that we weren't going to let them drive the ball down the field. Our kids went out and responded to the challenge, and we went three-and-out in that situation.
“Then we made some mistakes that you can't make in order to beat a good football team. I thought that was the difference. They capitalized on our mistakes whether it was a missed fit on a run or a mistake in the coverage.”
Auburn's adjustments or its ability to take advantage of mistakes – whatever it was – led to 220 yards in the second half, 414 for the game. Fueled by Dyer, the Tigers rushed for 254 yards, the sixth team this season to surpass 200 rushing yards against Ole Miss, which went into the game ranked No. 115 in America, giving up almost 223 yards on average.
There were several coverage mistakes that resulted in touchdown passes for Clint Moseley, a quarterback making his second start. Ole Miss did not allow a touchdown pass to Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, but Moseley threw four. He only attempted 15 passes and completed 12.
Freshman linebacker Serderius Bryant was active with six tackles and a tackle for loss.
The bright spot for the defense senior end Kentrell Lockett. He has struggled all year to show the pre-ACL form that made him a preseason All-SEC choice. Lockett had gone from starter to spot-duty but he had a big game last night with six tackles, a tackle for loss, two fumble recoveries and one of only two pressures credited to the Rebels.
Offensively, Brandon Bolden was back, and his powerful, tackle-breaking runs left a sense of “what might have been” without the ankle injury against BYU. Bolden looked really good and finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Randall Mackey had been progressing at quarterback, but last night wasn't one of his better games. He missed open receivers a few times and badly under threw a deep ball on his interception. Maybe it was too deep. Mackey's not noted for arm strength, but he is noted for accuracy and needs to amp it up in that department. He finished 15-for-27 for 157 yards. He threw a touchdown to Nick Brassell on the last play of the game to make the score 41-23 and not 41-17. Officials apparently had compassion for writers on deadline, and no conversion was attempted.