FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Ole Miss - Auburn 2003

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Eli Manning
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Eli Manning
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 4, 2013

FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week features the Rebels' come-from-behind 24-20 win at Auburn in 2003, which was Ole Miss' last victory on the Plains.

It's all going Rebels' way: Ole Miss stands alone atop SEC West

By Parrish Alford, Daily Journal

November 9, 2003 

AUBURN, Ala. - In its quest for a Southeastern Conference championship, Ole Miss bloodied the nose of a physical Auburn team with some of the Rebels' hardest offensive hitters banged up or out of the game completely.

No. 20 Ole Miss lost offensive linemen like golf balls in the rough Saturday, but found a way to hit the big drive, going 80 yards to score the winning touchdown with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.

The Rebels dealt a serious blow to Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, formerly of Ole Miss, with a 24-20 win before a crowd of 86,063 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Ole Miss (8-2, 6-0 SEC) continues to stand alone at the top of the Western Division hill with the biggest LSU-Ole Miss game in decades set for Oxford on Nov. 22. Those Tigers were idle Saturday.

Tuberville probably wishes his Tigers were. Auburn (6-4, 4-2), mentioned as a national championship hopeful in August, dropped to third place with losses to the division's top two teams.

The Rebels are 6-0 in SEC play for the first time since the 1962 team finished 10-0 and won SEC and national championships. There was plenty of celebrating by Ole Miss players, coaches and fans as the clock expired, but starting offensive tackle Tre Stallings and starting center Justin Sawyer had to participate on crutches.

Stallings (knee) was helped off with 1:38 left in the first quarter; Sawyer (ankle) exited in a wheel chair with 6:21 left in the first half.

"It was a gutsy, gutsy game for our kids and staff," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said.

Eli finds his fullback 

Perhaps the gutsiest play of all came when the Rebels' quarterback, Eli Manning - who was sacked four times and hurried countless other times - found fullback Lorenzo Townsend open, and Townsend streaked up the Auburn sideline for 48 yards to the Auburn 12.

"It was a play we've run probably one other time this year," Manning said. "The fullback runs to the left, and the tailback also goes to the left. It put the linebacker in a bind. He didn't know who to cover and he ran up on the tailback, Lorenzo made a good catch, and we got the ball down there."

Four plays later, Brandon Jacobs scored on a 1-yard run, and the PAT meant Auburn could only win with a touchdown - a feat the Tigers very nearly accomplished.

The Tigers took over at their 19. Three plays later they faced a first down at the 39 when Jason Campbell hit wide receiver Ben Obomanu with a short screen pass. Obomanu broke tackles through the Ole Miss defense and reached the 10 before he was run out of bounds by Travis Johnson.

After a time out with 45 seconds left, Auburn faced a third-and-goal from the 3. Campbell rolled right and looked back left to a wide-open Obomanu. The Rebels' 115th ranked pass defense seemed poised to strike again, but Obomanu, a hero seconds earlier, dropped a ball that hit him in the hands with his shoulder squared.

He may have been feeling bad vibes from the press box generated down by Ole Miss defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach.

"I was thinking `drop it, drop!'" Driesbach said. "You go back and look at who has dropped passes against us. Texas Tech didn't drop any in the fourth quarter. South Carolina didn't drop any. We were owed that."

Oliver's second chance

The Rebels took what they were owed and made a game-winning stop on fourth down when the Tigers ran the same pass play. This time Campbell's pass for Jeris McIntire was tipped away by free safety Eric Oliver.

"The play before we didn't cover it right," Oliver said. "There's not a coverage designed for a receiver to be that wide open. After he dropped it, I knew we were going to win."

Tuberville refused to lay the loss at Obomanu's feet.

"He made a heck of a run to get us down there. He gave us a chance. Someone else needs to step up and make a play," he said.

Auburn would have been in position to win with a field goal had kicker Philip Yost been able to been able to connect on a 32-yard attempt with roughly 7 ½ minutes to play.

The dropped pass, in a sense, served to counter the Tigers' only touchdown of the second half - a 68-yard pass from Campbell to Obomanu with 2:06 left in the third.

Ole Miss cornerback Von Hutchins had good position on the play and looked like he would make the interception of an underthrown ball. Instead, Hutchins tipped it into the air and it was snared by Obomanu, who ran about 30 yards to the end zone to give Auburn a 17-14 lead.

Ole Miss tied the game with a 42-yard field goal by Nichols on the next possession.

The Tigers then received the kick and drove 56 yards for a 30-yard field goal by Yost, their last points of the game.

"This really hurts," said Auburn defensive end Reggie Torber, who had three sacks of Eli Manning. "We tried to get Eli out of his rhythm, but he was able to make the plays when he had to. We have to come back tomorrow and face the music."

Manning finished with 218 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions with 19-for-30 efficiency. He hit Chris Collins for a 2-yard score and a 7-0 lead on the Rebels' opening possession.

He connected with Mario Hill from 15 yards out with 7:54 left in the half, and Ole Miss led 14-10 at the break. Both touchdown passes came on third down.

The Rebels rushed the ball effectively on their opening drive, getting 36 yards on four carries from Tremaine Turner.

As the line was whittled away and negative sack yardage was added in, Ole Miss finished with 84 yards on 37 carries.

But the Rebels' lowest rushing figure of the season came with perhaps the sweetest result.

"We had to play with who we had and I'm proud of their effort," offensive line coach and offensive coordinator John Latina said. "We knew we were going to have trouble with a great defensive front, but the bottom line is we're feeling great right now."

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