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A spirit that is not afraid

Rushing offense thrives, rushing defense falters in loss to Ole Miss

<p>Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter (27) bursts through the line for a 48-yard rush against the Ole Miss Rebels in the second quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Oct. 15, 2022.</p>

Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter (27) bursts through the line for a 48-yard rush against the Ole Miss Rebels in the second quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Oct. 15, 2022.

Auburn suffered its first loss to Ole Miss since 2015 after falling 48-34 in Oxford, Miss.

Tank Bigsby ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns and Jarquez Hunter ran for 80 yards. But it was not enough, as Ole Miss replicated Bigsby’s monster performance with 448 rushing yards of their own with three players rushing for over 100 yards.

“There’s a lot of positive things that we’ve done over the last couple of weeks, but we’re not there yet,” said head coach Bryan Harsin. “And that’s the message right? We’re not there yet.”

The Rebels’ dominant rushing performance marked back-to-back weeks where Auburn’s rushing defense was exposed. Last week, Georgia ran for 292 yards against the Tigers.

Ole Miss’ run game was demoralizing for Auburn all game but specifically on third down.

Ole Miss converted 12 of its 19 third down attempts and 10 of those conversions came by running the ball. The Rebels’ average third down distance was 3.4 yards, and they faced 13 third-and-shorts (1-4 yards).

Overall, Ole Miss recorded 115 third-down rushing yards on 15 attempts.

Auburn fell behind 21-0 early in the second quarter when the Rebels scored after a T.J. Finley fumble, and it seemed like Auburn would suffer another blowout loss.

But Auburn regrouped and scored on its next two drives. Auburn ran 17 plays between the two drives with two of those being passes.

“This team is very resilient,” Bigsby said. “Guys have grit. The guys really love the game of football, so it’s no surprise to me. We just have to keep building off there. We’re moving in the right direction.”

At halftime, Auburn had 200 yards of offense with 124 yards rushing and scored 17 points in the second quarter alone. The Tigers’ 124 rushing yards in the first half were more than Auburn logged in any of its previous four games.

“We ran the ball better today, which is what we wanted to do, so that was good,” Harsin said. “Tank (Bigbsy), Jarquez (Hunter), our running game was much better. That kept us in the game, and that was important for us.”

However, the Tigers still trailed by double digits. The difference was the points off turnovers in the first half. Ole Miss scored a touchdown after the Finley fumble and after Robby Ashford’s misfire on a screen pass was intercepted. Meanwhile, Auburn settled for a field goal after a funky Keionte Scott interception to make it 28-17 at halftime.

Bigsby exploded for a 50-yard touchdown run to open the second half to make it a four-point game, but that was the closest the Tigers made it as their run defense was throttled for another half.

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Ole Miss ran for 284 yards on 7.3 yards per carry in the second half and quarterback Jaxson Dart only had to throw the ball nine times.

After an Ole Miss touchdown and a lightning delay, Auburn trailed by 14 with 6:26 and was forced to throw the ball. Ashford, who had thrown nine passes all game, threw eight passes on Auburn’s final drive - completing just two of them and also tossing an interception on fourth down to solidify the loss.

Auburn sits at 3-4 after the loss and 9-11 under Harsin. Despite the loss, Bigsby supported Harsin after the game.

“We’re very invested, and we trust in him. We trust what he’s doing,” Bigbsy said. “It’s all about the little things, and when he puts his game plans in we have to go with it and we have to do it.”

Auburn has a bye week next week before returning home to play Arkansas at home on Oct. 29.

Jacob Waters | Sports Reporter

Jacob is a sophomore from Leeds, Alabama. This is his second year with The Auburn Plainsman. 

Twitter: @JacobWaters_

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