Oct. 6, 2013
Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy takes down Ole Miss' Jaylen Walton (Shanna Lockwood/USA Today)
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's defense has played short-handed all year because of injuries, and Saturday it got quite a scare when, after a tackle, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy was taken off the field on a cart with his head strapped in place. He was taken to the East Alabama Medical Center for an examination.
The injury wasn't serious enough to keep McKinzy away from his teammates, however. He returned in the second half wearing a neck brace and cheered from the sideline as the Tigers beat Ole Miss 30-22 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I'll find out a little bit more, but it's a good sign that he was up walking around and cheering," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. "It was scary when you go out there and a player's having trouble moving. That's a scary deal."
McKinzy's injury opened up more playing time for Anthony Swain, who responded with a team-high eight tackles.
Saturday was a mixed bag on the injury front. Top cornerback Chris Davis returned to action after missing the last two games with a leg injury. But defensive lineman Montravius Adams departed the game with an injury, though Malzahn said he thought he'd be all right.
Defensive back Jonathan Jones played for the first time all season after a foot injury, making a big play when he downed a punt at the Ole Miss 1 in the final minutes. Linebacker Justin Garrett didn't play. Defensive end Craig Sanders returned after missing a game.
Quarterback Nick Marshall said he tweaked his knee, but didn't he seem concerned about it after the game.
"It's not that bad. It's something I can take care with treatment," he said.
- Charles Goldberg
Another 100-yard rusher for Auburn
In all the history of Auburn football, no Tiger team had boasted four different backs who had 100-yard rushing games. That changed Saturday.
Quarterback Nick Marshall ran 14 times for 140 yards to join tailbacks Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant with games of 100-plus yards this season.
Rolling the defensive linemen
Auburn played 12 defensive linemen against Ole Miss, mitigating the effects of Ole Miss getting off 89 plays.
"Coach (Pat) Dye was by the office a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about us not giving up many touchdowns in the second half," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "He said it's because we play so many people that we usually fresher than the teams we play against. I think there is a lot to that."
Freshman defensive end Carl Lawson enthusiastically agreed, giving credit to defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
"What matters is how you finish," Lawson said. "We needed to get some stops and come out there and finish. That's what we did. Coach Garner does a great, great job of having a good rotation and keeping us fresh throughout the game."
Tough game for old friends
Good friends Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze found themselves in an uncomfortable position Saturday. They were trying to beat each other in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn's Malzahn got the best of Ole Miss' Freeze.
"I have a lot of respect for Hugh. He's one of the best in the business," Malzahn said. "His team is one of the up-and-coming teams. He's done a great job with the program. I just told him good luck and he's a good friend of mine, and I'm glad that game is over."
- Charles Goldberg
Tre Mason keeps piling up the yards
Quarterback Nick Marshall grabbed the headlines with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns and the defense made noise with six sacks. All the while, Tre Mason kept piling up yards.
The tailback rushed for 77 yards, led Auburn receivers with three catches for 62 yards and, counting kickoff returns, finished with 192 all-purpose yards. He has 758 all-purpose yards in the first five games.
"Tre had a good night for us...a very big kickoff return in the fourth quarter," said Gus Malzahn. "That kind of flipped the field, and it was a momentum play."
Mason said his job was simple.
"I just try to make plays when I'm in the game every time I touch the ball - make the key plays; spark the offense," he said.
He did, as he and Marshall provided the spark early as Auburn built a big enough lead to hold off Ole Miss.
"Sometimes you've got to find a way through somebody. I just try to be an all-around back, have speed, power," Mason said.
- Charles Goldberg
Big night for Auburn offensive line
Ole Miss' defensive line is not the biggest, and that sometimes causes trouble for opponents. Auburn center Reese Dismukes said the Tigers were prepared.
"That's our job," Dismukes said. "They are smaller up front than most defensive lines in this league, so they do a lot of movement. That usually confuses people. I think we did a really good job of handling it tonight. We did what we're capable of doing."
Dismukes said he sees good times ahead for Auburn's offensive line.
"I think we are doing a great job," Dismukes said. "I think we have a chance to be the best o-line in the country. I don't think we have taken a step back one game. We just need to keep getting better, and the sky is the limit."
Malzahn says Auburn not looking ahead
Auburn, at 4-1, is two wins away from qualifying for a bowl game after missing post-season play last year. Gus Malzahn wanted no part of such talk Saturday night.
"This was a huge win for us, against a Top 25 team, at home. We're not looking ahead," he said. "We're going to the next game, and I'm just proud of our guys. We're going to get better each week, and I think we have a chance to continue that."
Shifting the blame for Therezie's pick six
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said his wide receiver could have done more to prevent Robenson Therezie's interception and 78-yard touchdown return in the first quarter.
The interception was the first thrown by Wallace this season. He had another one intercepted by safety Ryan Smith in the fourth quarter.
"I thought he was going to come in," Wallace said. "He sat. It was a screen, and that is just how it went."
Not so fast said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
"It was just a bad throw," Freeze said. "We had a good play set up with a screen and Bo threw it up the field."
Western Carolina falls to 1-5
Western Carolina will bring a 1-5 record to Auburn next Saturday for homecoming. The Catamounts, an FCS program, fell 42-21 at Chattanooga on Saturday.
The Catamounts have losses of 45-24 to Middle Tennessee State, 45-3 to Virginia Tech, 28-21 to The Citadel, 62-23 to Samford and to Chattanooga.
Getting tough in the fourth quarter
Ole Miss had the ball twice trailing 27-22 in the fourth quarter Saturday and once while trailing 30-22. Auburn defense rose up each time.
Smith's interception ended one drive. Another one that started at the Ole Miss 1 ended with a punt after three incomplete passes.
On the final Ole Miss possession, defensive tackle Gabe Wright sacked Wallace on third down and defensive end Carl Lawson sacked him on fourth down.
* Auburn's six sacks against Ole Miss were the most since the Tigers sacked Alabama quarterbacks 11 times in 2005.
* Auburn is 14-2 against Ole Miss at Jordan-Hare Stadium and leads the all-time series 28-10.
* Auburn's 80-yard touchdown drive on its first possession was its third consecutive touchdown drive of 80 yards or more.
* Auburn's defense had six sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Ole Miss' defense had no sacks and four tackles for loss.