The Ole Miss offense was stagnant, and the defense faltered in the Rebels’ 31-16 loss to Auburn on Saturday.
In a game in which many projected the Rebels would have a chance to win, Ole Miss failed to score a touchdown until near the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Phil Longo’s offense stalled in the red zone multiple times in the first half, and the Rebels had to settle for field goal attempts.
“The main story of the day is pretty obvious, when you get in the red zone you have got to find a way to score a touchdown,” head coach Matt Luke said. “Also, I thought that our ability to run the football really hurt us at times. Give Auburn a lot of credit. They are really good on defense.”
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo saw his offense’s lack of execution in the red zone, especially early in the game, as a key factor that hurt the Rebels on Saturday.
“There are no excuses,” Longo said. “We had some poor execution in the red zone or in the fringe just outside of the red zone that stalled some drives. Those are things that we just have to get done to get a good start. We felt like we needed a good start against Auburn and settling for the field goal instead of the touchdown is not what we wanted to do early-on.”
Although the Rebels only trailed 10-6 at halftime, both Luke and Longo were disappointed at the intermission because of the missed opportunities from the offense.
“Yeah, I was disappointed,” Longo said. “We had more (opportunities) to get some points and have a lead before the half, and we didn’t do that. We shouldn’t have entered halftime at 10-6. We had an opportunity to be ahead in that ballgame.”
Although the Rebel defense held Auburn to just ten points in the first half, the wheels seemed to fall off the wagon in the second as the Tigers scored three touchdowns to pull away late in the game.
“They kept battling and battling, and the dam just finally broke,” Luke said. “They battled back in the fourth quarter, but the three scoring drives back-to-back were because of too many explosive plays.”
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff believes the defense’s struggles in the second half came from not being physical enough and giving up too many explosive plays.
“You can’t come out in the second half and give up those two explosive plays,” McGriff said. “If you take those plays out, we’re still in the ballgame, and we take them (Auburn) to the fourth quarter.”
Jordan Ta’amu, along with the rest of the offense, struggled to find a rhythm throughout the course of the day, but finished 27-46 for 324 yards and one touchdown. The Auburn front seven also bottled up running back Scottie Phillips for just 60 yards on 17 carries. Ta’amu led the team in rushing with 79 yards on 19 carries.
After Saturday’s game, both the Rebels and the Tigers sit at 5-3 overall and 1-3 in SEC play. In its three SEC losses this season, Ole Miss has averaged 12.6 points per game. The Rebels are off next week before playing host to South Carolina on Nov. 3. Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown commented on his team’s ability to rebound from this tough loss.
“We’re definitely going to get back and get up off the mat,” It was a tough loss, but we have an open date, and we’re going to be ready for South Carolina.”