FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Ole Miss - Auburn 1992

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Cassius Ware scores a 91-yard touchdown against Auburn.
Cassius Ware scores a 91-yard touchdown against Auburn.

Oct. 12, 2012

FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week features the Rebels' 45-21 season-opening win over Auburn in 1992.

It's no lie: Rebs smash Auburn

By Ron Higgins
Commercial Appeal

September 6, 1992

OXFORD, Miss. – Somebody must have been tampering with the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium football scoreboard Saturday.

It read: Ole Miss 45, Auburn 21, but nobody really believed it. It was hard to tell who was more in shock - Auburn's team or Ole Miss's fans.

Like new Rebel defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dun's bizarre defensive alignments, the Rebels scored a season-opening victory - and a Southeastern Conference one at that - with an efficiency and intensity that came out of the blue considering last year's 5-6 record.

Ole Miss Coach Billy Brewer said he "thought it was going to be a close game." Auburn coach Pat Dye succinctly summed up the 24-point loss by his team, a 4 ½-point favorite - "Ole Miss took us to the woodshed."

From an offense that led the Rebels to a 21-7 halftime lead to a defense that forced six turnovers, scored two touchdowns, and held Auburn to a school-record minus 16 yards rushing was one of Ole Miss's most impressive season openers in recent memories. An estimated 40,000 watched.

The Rebel victory snapped a five-game losing streak that dated back to midseason in 1991 and broke a nine-game losing streak to Auburn. It gave the Rebels the early lead in the SEC Western Division with Alabama. It gave Ole Miss momentum heading into next week's game against Tulane, a 13-12 winner over SMU Saturday. And the win marked successful debuts for Dunn and offensive coordinator Larry Beckish.

Dunn's defense - which mostly featured three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs, including two strong safeties - thoroughly confused Auburn quarterback Stan White. White threw for 314 yards and one touchdown, but had four passes intercepted and was sacked five times for losses of 42 yards.

"We put so much pressure on him that he (White) didn't have a clue," said Ole Miss cornerback Danny Boyd, who had two interceptions. "Every time he dropped to pass he was running trying to get out of there."

White could run but he could not hide, especially when the Tigers got in position to tie the game in the third quarter.

With Ole Miss leading, 21-14, and Auburn primed with a first-and-goal at the Rebels' 5-yardline, Dunn sent at least five players on a blitz. Linebacker Marquis Thomas steamrolled White, the ball squirted in the air, newcomer Cassius Ware grabbed it and ran 91 yards for a touchdown for a 28-14 lead with 4:36 left in the period. It was the longest fumble return for a TD in Ole Miss history.

"I got the ball, took off and kept looking at the goal posts," said Ware, a Northwest Mississippi Community College transfer who had team high 14 tackles. "It was a looonnnggg way. I never thought I would make it. I realized I was in the end zone when I thought I was dead."

After that, the Rebels scored 17 straight points, capped by safety Johnny Dixon's 54-yard scoring interception of a White pass with 6:19 left to play.

"The coaches told us to prepare for them bringing everything from the first play of the game," said White, who'll try to regroup his offense against Division 1-AA Samford next week. "We got a lot of blitzes, but we just didn't execute. I was going to throw the ball away (on his fumble for Ware's TD)."

Auburn outgained the Rebels, 334-325, through its passing game, but the Ole Miss offense was solid when it counted.

Rebels senior quarterback Russ Shows, erratic in the past, steadily got the Rebels out of the gate with first-half scoring drives of 74, 67 and 29 yards. He hit 8-of-18 passes for 170 yards, including a first-half TD to flanker Germaine Khon and a 65-yard pass to tailback Duo Innocent, who was tackled at the one-inch line.

"We came out and did what we had to do at the start - we hit them in the mouth and kept going," Shows said. "I felt like we could win big - I really wanted to show people we could do it."

There were heroes aplenty for the Rebels. Besides the obvious, such as Ware, Boyd, Dixon and Shows, a reshuffled offensive line that has little depth played almost the entire game with its starters. It allowed Shows to be sacked just twice and opened gaping holes that allowed fullback Marvin Courtney and tailback Corey Philpot to run for 68 and 54 yards respectively.

"Auburn's defensive front has been doing the same thing for 10 years," said Rebel left guard Everett Lindsay, who was shifted from left tackle just before kickoff. "We adjusted our scheme to throw them off."

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