Oct. 5, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. – When it was winning time Saturday night in the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn’s football team took charge of the turf that is Pat Dye Field.
* A Steven Clark punt downed at the 1 by Jonathan Jones, playing for the first time this season.
* A sack by freshman defensive end Carl Lawson and another by junior tackle Gabe Wright, who simply shoved quarterback Bo Wallace to the ground.
* A leaping interception by senior safety Ryan Smith.
* Three stops inside the 5 that forced Ole Miss to settle for a field goal.
* Junior tailback Tre Mason running the ball hard and tough.
* Linebacker Anthony Swain, subbing for injured Cassanova McKinzy, not only holding his own but leading the team in tackles with eight.
When it was over and Auburn had beaten Ole Miss 30-22 to run its record to 4-1, Auburn players celebrated. If you were looking for someone to fret about statistics or what could have been or should have been, the Auburn locker room was the wrong place to be.
From the time Robenson Therezie picked off a Wallace pass and sprinted 78 yards to a touchdown that gave Auburn a 13-3 lead until deep into the fourth quarter, the Tigers were threatening to blow it open.,
They had their chances, but a fumbled exchanged wiped out one promising drive and Cameron Artis-Payne’s fumble after an 18-yard run wiped out another. With quarterback Nick Marshall
, electrifying with his legs for most of the game, nursing a sore knee in the fourth quarter, Auburn’s playcalling was very conservative.
And it worked.
Ole Miss had difficulty dealing with the noise of the Jordan-Hare crowd and Wallace had difficulty dealing with the pass rush. He was sacked six times and hit so many times that he was jumpy at the end of the game.
It was a big, big win for Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn football team.
Malzahn, offensive coordinator for three seasons, has experienced plenty of loud Saturdays at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but he wasn’t sure he’d experienced one as loud as Saturday night.
“Unbelievable,” Malzahn said. “That’s as loud as I can ever remember. The ground was shaking. It really was. It was great.”
When Ole Miss was backed up at its 1-yard ine on the same end as the Auburn student section, it was so loud it was hard to talk to the person next to you.
“We even had trouble communicating on defense,” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said, “but that’s OK. That’s the way you want it, that great Jordan-Hare noise."
With Saturday night’s win, the Tigers surpassed last season’s total of three wins. With two games remaining against overmatched nonconference opponents Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, they virtually guaranteed themselves a bowl game.
Until he was banged up, Marshall ran like only a few Auburn quarterbacks have run. He ran so well that his coaches didn’t see much reason to pass.
It wasn’t always pretty. Two very costly fumbles, a handful of big plays, some passes that were overthrown and some that should have been caught were enough to give Auburn coaches and players some heartburn.
But in the end, the Tigers won a big game, a very big game.
As players went smiling to hugs from their families and their friends, that’s all that mattered.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: