Auburn, Ole Miss look to limit turnovers in SEC clash
Ball security likely was a hot topic at practice this week for both Auburn and Mississippi heading into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference matchup in Oxford, Miss.
Auburn dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2018 after a 30-22 loss at South Carolina last weekend. Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix threw three interceptions and was involved in a sideline altercation with leading receiver Seth Williams in the second half.
Ole Miss’ Matt Corral doubled Nix’s total by throwing six interceptions, and also lost a fumble in a 33-21 defeat at Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 24 points off turnovers.
Ole Miss (1-3, 1-3 SEC) committed three first-half turnovers to fall behind 20-0. In addition, the Rebels were stopped twice on fourth down at Arkansas’ 1-yard line.
“Had we not screwed all that up early, we’re up by three or four scores,” Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said. “You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win.”
“No excuses for a performance like that at all,” Corral said. “With a performance like that, you’re supposed to lose the game. That’s what happened.”
Auburn (2-2, 2-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but Nix was sacked three times in addition to the three interceptions. He passed for 272 yards and marched Auburn to the Gamecocks’ 13 late before being called for intentional grounding while trying to avoid a sack in his school’s first loss to South Carolina since 1933.
“We’re just going to have to be big boys and we’re going to have to man up and put it behind us and go into (this) week and find a way to win,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said.
Williams, who entered last weekend averaging 18 yards per catch, was limited to four catches despite being targeted 14 times. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris had to break up a heated exchange between Nix and Williams in the third quarter.
“People want to win. It’s a competition,” Tigers receiver Eli Stove said. “Seth’s trying to tell Bo something about what the DB is doing, and Bo is trying to tell him what he saw.”
If the Tigers and Rebels want to play a possession game Saturday, they can both turn to talented young running backs.
Ole Miss sophomore Jerrion Ealy carried a career-high 23 times for 113 yards last week, his second straight 100-yard rushing game and the third of his career.
Auburn freshman Tank Bigsby had 111 yards on 16 carries last week. The previous week, he had 146 yards in a 30-28 victory at home against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks aren’t the only common opponent for the Tigers and Rebels.
Ole Miss’ lone win came on the road in a 42-41 victory at Kentucky in Week 2. Auburn opened its season with a 29-13 victory at home against the Wildcats.
The Rebels were without two starters last weekend — defensive lineman Tariqious Tisdale and defensive back Jakorey Hawkins. Kiffin said the number of active COVID-19 cases and players in isolation because of contact tracing has grown since.
“It’s becoming very challenging. This is not easy,” Kiffin said. “Especially when for whatever reason it continues to hit us on defense.”
–Field Level Media