Auburn slips past Ole Miss

Published 9:52 pm Saturday, October 28, 2006

Brandon Cox passed for a season-high 253 yards and a touchdown and John Vaughn kicked three second-half field goals to help No. 7 Auburn slip by Mississippi 23-17 on Saturday.

The Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) trailed the Rebels (2-7, 1-5) twice, but Auburn converted two third-quarter interceptions thrown by Brent Schaeffer into 10 points.

Vaughn’s 20-yarder put the Tigers up for good with 7:35 left in fourth quarter and his 29-yarder sealed it with 35 seconds left, transforming a sloppy performance into an Auburn victory.

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The win was the Tigers’ 21st in their last 23 regular-season SEC games and kept their SEC and national title hopes alive.

Auburn had little trouble moving the ball against Ole Miss with 428 total yards, but committed an array of mistakes that allowed the Rebels to flirt with the upset. The Tigers tied a season-high with two turnovers, dropped several passes, committed inopportune penalties and showed an inability to stop big plays by a suddenly snappy Ole Miss offense.

Auburn was flagged for nine penalties for 84 yards, both season highs.

It wasn’t until Eric Brock and Aairon Savage picked off Schaeffer on consecutive drives in Rebels territory that Auburn began to rally after the teams played to a 7-7 tie at halftime.

Brock’s interception set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Brad Lester that made the score 14-10 with 5:50 left in the third quarter. Savage set up Vaughn’s first field goal from 31 yards out with 55 second left in the third.

Schaeffer tied the score at 17-17 with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lawrence Lilly at 12:06 in the fourth quarter. The play was set up by a late hit on Schaeffer and defensive holding in the end zone.

A 45-yard kickoff return by Tristan Davis and a 20-yard pass by Cox on third down set up Vaughn’s 20-yarder to make it 20-17.

The Rebels opened the game with a crisp 81-yard drive that put them up 7-0 with just 2:43 gone in the game. Tailback Mico McSwain lined up in the slot on the left side of the line and scored untouched on a 27-yard end around that seemed to catch Auburn by surprise.

Schaeffer hit on passes of 37-yards to tight end Robert Lane and 12 yards to Shay Hodge on third down on the opening drive.

Auburn answered with a grinding 15-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 7:46. Cox was 6-for-6 on the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rodgeriqus Smith with 4:31 left in the first quarter.

The Rebels spent the rest of the half playing opportunistic defense. They killed one Tigers’ drive with an interception by Charles Clark at their own 12-yard line. It was the first interception throw by Cox in 113 attempts.

Then Ole Miss killed off Auburn’s final drive of the half when defensive end Greg Hardy stripped Lester and recovered the fumble at the Rebels 35.