AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's Gus Malzhan got the better of his friend, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze, on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The first meeting between the up-tempo offense gurus resulted in a 30-22 win for the Auburn Tigers.
A year after the Tigers won just three games under Gene Chizik, Malzhan has now led them to four total and two more wins in the Southeastern Conference than they had all of last season. (Auburn was 0-8 in Chizik's last season, including a 41-20 loss to the Rebels on the road).
The Tigers and Malzhan put on a rushing clinic against the No. 24 Rebels, who have lost back-to-back games in the state. Quarterback Nick Marshall had a career night for the Tigers, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He entered the game with 138 yards on the ground and no scores.
His running ability highlighted a 282-yard effort for the Tigers, the most the Rebels have allowed this year on the ground.
"I thought he helped us win the game, and he helped us win the game with his feet," Malzhan said. "He showed a lot of toughness and made a big throw to Tre Mason down there in the third quarter. That play led to a touchdown, and he did what it took to help us win."
Ole Miss' struggles on offense wasn't limited to the defense. The Rebels, who were shut out by No. 1 Alabama 25-0 on Sept. 28, were held to two field goals from Andrew Ritter in the first half and without a touchdown until there was 5:55 left in the third quarter.
"I thought Auburn was well prepared, but we had our chances. We can't given them points off turnovers like we did and we have to score touchdowns when we get the opportunity," Freeze said. "We got the ball with three chances to take the lead and we couldn't protect. We had six drops, I think, here on the night. Special teams, we don't down our (punts) inside the 5, they down theirs inside the 5. There were a lot of little things they did better than us tonight."
Despite the inability to score most of the night, the Rebels did make things interesting late in the game. Auburn led 20-6 at the half, but the Rebels outscored the Tigers 10-7 in the third quarter and got to within five points (27-22) with 8:29 left in the fourth quarter when quarterback Bo Wallace hooked up with Donte Moncrief for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Auburn, which never trailed, fumbled the ball back to the Rebels on the ensuing possession. Auburn's defense, which sacked Wallace six times in the game, rose to the occasion with an interception of Wallace at the Ole Miss 43.
The Tigers didn't score on their next drive, but they pinned the Rebels at their 1-yard line after a punt from Steven Clark. Wallace missed three straight passes and the Tigers got the ball back at the Rebels' 31 with 4:53 left in the game. Auburn then got a 23-yard field goal from Cody Parkey to essentially ice the game.
Ole Miss' last drive picked up one first down before the Tigers had back-to-back sacks and got the ball back.
Ole Miss, without a timeout, was unable to stop the clock and Auburn salted away the victory, its fifth straight over the Rebels at home.
"Obviously, this was a very big win against a good team on our home field. I am very proud of our defense, especially the fourth quarter," Malzhan said. "We had a long run, we turned the ball over, they held them and got the ball back for us. I thought that was a huge key. Also punting the ball on the 1-yard line, I thought that was a big key to the game. The crowd also really helped us win the game. The big sacks were critical, getting back there and putting pressure on the quarterback."
Freeze said not protecting for Wallace was all about his offensive line losing one-on-one battles.
"When you feel like you have to abandon the run a little bit, they certainly can tee off and that happened a lot," Freeze said. "We certainly felt like we got beat quite a few times. The thing that is disappointing is that not only did you get beat, but you got beat quick off the ball and there is nothing you can really do with the football."
NOTES: Marshall became the fourth Auburn player this season to rush for at least 100 yards in a game, a school record. ... Moncrief's 49-yard reception from Wallace in the third quarter was the Rebels' first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Texas game on Sept. 15, a span of six overall quarters. .... Ritter finished with three field goals in the loss, the first time in his career he has made more than one field goal in a game.