Auburn's Ricardo Louis has a step on Ole Miss' Kendarius Webster
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― There Auburn was again, throwing toward the end zone on the last play of the game, hoping it could tie things up.
Alas, the Tigers came up short again Saturday, and now can look at a season scorecard that says they've lost to Arkansas and Ole Miss on consecutive weekends when last-gasp passes failed to find the mark, and can look at a loss to Mississippi State that was finalized when an on-side kick failed with a minute to play.
The latest setback came when Ole Miss won 27-19 Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was Auburn's third 8-point SEC loss, and one of those came in a four-overtime defeat. The Tigers left Saturday with a 4-4 overall record and a 1-4 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
"I will just say this," said coach Gus Malzahn, "we can play with anybody and I think everyone can see that. We just have to figure out how to take that next step and get a victory. We have been close."
Auburn will look to that in next Saturday's game at Texas A&M.
"I think you can look at it and see we are playing hard," Malzahn said. "We have got some deficiencies in some areas and some young guys in some areas, but this team is growing. We did some good things."
One thing Auburn didn't do well was convert third-down plays. The Tigers converted just two of 15 of those.
Auburn was 3-of-3 in the red zone, but all three were Daniel Carlson field goals.
"If you take away the third downs at 2-for-15 and we score a touchdown on one of those drives instead of a field goal, it's a different game," Malzahn said.
Auburn led 10-3 early in the second quarter. Ole Miss led 20-13 late in the third quarter. Carlson kicked two field goals to cut it 20-19 before Ole Miss scored again with 10 minutes to play. The Tigers kept trying, shrugging off the disappointing four-overtime loss to Arkansas the week before.
"Our guys fought their tail off against one of the better teams in our league," Malzahn said. "We had chances to win and we didn't. We have to reach deep down next week as players and coaches and we will. I will tell you what, this team is going to fight."
Malzahn said he decided to take the fight to Ole Miss with a more aggressive playbook. He played Sean White, Jeremy Johnson and Kerryon Johnson at quarterback in the first nine plays. Johnson threw a pass after he lined up as a wide receiver. Receiver Jason Smith threw a pass as well. Malzahn went for it on fourth-and-2 around midfield, though Auburn didn't make it.
"The mindset was that we wanted to be aggressive," Malzahn said. "We were going to try and go for it on a couple of fourth downs and we liked the matchup we had, but we just didn't execute the play. That was our plan."
Malzahn did all of that despite the fact White played with a bad left knee and that running back Peyton Barber wasn't at full strength. Running back Jovon Robinson, who had four carries in the first seven games, had 18 carries for 91 yards.
"It was his opportunity, and he is back to getting healthy," Malzahn said. "He did a good job for us. He protected the football, he ran hard and I thought he had some good runs."
And now, it's on to Texas A&M.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine