Last week we were reminded that though the Auburn (4-1, 2-1) defense is going to give up some yards, it steps up when it has to. The Tigers held Ole Miss to only three field goals before Bo Wallace threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief in the third quarter, and added a 12-yard scoring pass to Moncrief midway through the fourth quarter.
Despite giving up most of a 27-6 lead, Auburn’s defense made big play after big play. The first was Robinson Therezie’s 78-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. The defensive line led the way from there, sacking Wallace six times – most of which were on crucial third or fourth down plays. It was the Tigers’ highest sack total since racking up 11 against Alabama in 2005.
Defensive ends Carl Lawson and Dee Ford each had two sacks, while defensive tackle Gabe Wright added two of his own. Lawson is quickly becoming one of the SEC’s breakout stars of the 2013 recruiting class, earning freshman of the week honors for his six-tackle, two-sack effort.
On the offensive side of the ball, there is plenty to happy about, especially in the running game – Auburn racked up 282 of its 375 yards on the ground. QB Nick Marshall, who had 140 rushing yards, was Auburn’s fourth different 100-yard rusher this season, a school record.
But fumbles continue to plague the Tigers, and nearly cost them the game.
Trailing 27-22, Ole Miss had an opportunity to take the lead after a fumble by Cameron Artis-Payne at the Rebels’ 40-yard-line midway through the fourth quarter. But Auburn’s defense quickly responded with an interception by Ryan Smith.
It was one of two lost fumbles by the Tigers, which have lost at least one in each game this season.
What to look for in Week 7: With Western Carolina up next, this week offers the Tigers a perfect opportunity to improve on both sides of the ball. The Auburn defense needs to work on eliminating big plays. The Tigers gave up far too many pass plays against Ole Miss, and not too long ago, an LSU running back by the name of Jeremy Hill gashed Auburn on the ground. Otherwise, this unit has played fairly well.
Offensively, Auburn has some work to do in the passing game and ball security. At some point, Auburn – ranked 104th in passing (184.4 yards) – will need to throw the ball effectively to win. The Tigers did it once, against Mississippi State, but they still need more consistency through the air. Also, continually laying the ball on the ground will eventually cost you a game.