By Charles Goldberg
OXFORD, Miss. -- There were so many yards, as in 1,124 of them between the two teams. There were so many scoring drives, as in the first eight drives resulted in points.
But in this wild game, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn recognized his defense for two turning-point moments in a wild 40-29 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday night.
Malzahn said two defensive plays -- a late Josh Holsey interception that finally put the game away and a goal-line stand early in the third quarter -- helped Auburn beat back Ole Miss in a game that featured more than 550 yards for each team.
The Tigers' proud defense gave up yards, but Auburn only allowed seven points in the second half. Auburn scored 20 over the same period thanks to two touchdowns and two clutch Daniel Carlson field goals in the second half.
"Sometimes it's how you win," Malzahn said. "We faced some adversity on the road really for the first time. At halftime, it was a dogfight, third quarter was a dogfight, and we were able to establish a couple of drives running the football, hit a couple of deep balls down the field, and our defense held them, specifically, on third downs.
"I think it was important how we won... The way our kids kept responding. They kept believing.
"I'm real proud of our defense as far as adjustments in the second half, to hold that group to seven points in the second half. Our third-down defense was outstanding in the second half, and the fourth-down stops were huge."
No. 15 Auburn won for the fifth straight time to improve to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the league.
Kamryn Pettway's big game
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly passed for a dizzyingly 465 yards, but one of the ones that got away landed in Holsey's hands, who happily returned it 47 yards to set up a Kerryon Johnson touchdown run that stretch a four-point lead to the 11-point margin of victory.
"It was probably the play of the game because at that point it was kind of back and forth," Malzahn said. "When he returned that, it flipped the field, and gave the offense a short field and we were able to score a touchdown and that really put the game away."
Malzahn and his offense did OK, too. Just ask him about running back Kamryn Pettway, who rushed for 236 yards on 30 carries.
"Kamryn Pettway is starting to establish himself as one of the tough guys in the country, and he's getting better every time out," Malzahn said.
Ask him about Kerryon Johnson, who came back from a sore ankle to score two touchdowns.
"K.J. is a tough guy," Malzahn said. "He's not 100 percent, but he wanted to play. He did some really good things for us. When we have him, and we have our full arsenal, it really helps."
And quarterback Sean White, who hit 15-of-22 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.
"Sean White is coming into his own. You can tell his confidence. He made some throws tonight under pressure, one to Stanton Truitt, I don't know how many people could have made. It was a great play."
And, of course, Carlson, who kicked four field goals. He third field goal gave Auburn a 30-29 lead with 12:25 left. His next one made it 33-29 with 8:13 remaining.
"Daniel Carlson is the best kicker in the country," Malzahn said. "He made some pressure kicks and gave us some breathing room when we went up by four."
Next up for Auburn is an 11 a.m. game against Vanderbilt next Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium before finishing the regular season against Georgia, Alabama A&M and Alabama.
"We're playing pretty good football right now," Malzahn said. "We're not looking ahead."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Gus Malzahn happy with Auburn's 40-29 win over Ole Miss. Watch the video... pic.twitter.com/RAzxSoTxhL
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) October 30, 2016