OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — If there were any questions whether the Auburn Tigers would be able to bounce back from consecutive disappointing losses, head coach Gus Malzahn figured they were answered in a 31-16 win over Mississippi on Saturday.
"We went through a storm last week with all the negativity that goes with it," Malzahn said. "It either divides — and I think a lot of people root for that — or it brings you together."
Lofty preseason hopes for Auburn (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) were dashed after SEC losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee after a 4-1 start. But the Tigers had everything working together against the Rebels in each phase of the game.
"The third quarter stood out to me because we kind of put that game away," Malzahn said. "We had over 200 yards rushing, which was huge. I'm real happy for our players and staff. It's a very good win."
JaTarvious Whitlow rushed for 170 yards on 19 carries as Auburn rolled up 484 yards total offense without a turnover, to break open a 10-6 halftime lead.
The Tigers put together scoring drives of 68, 75 and 62 yards to build a 31-9 cushion that was never seriously threatened. Anthony Schwartz recovered a fumble in the end zone after a 54-yard run by Whitlow while Malik Miller capped drives with scoring runs of 1 and 2 yards.
Whitlow added a touchdown reception of 3 yards from Jarrett Stidham and Anders Carlson converted a 28-yard field goal to build the halftime lead.
Stidham finished 13-of-22 passing for 215 yards. Seth Williams had four receptions for 83 yards, while Whitlow added four receptions for 38 yards.
Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3) moved the ball, accounting for 447 yards in total offense, but settled for three field goals on three tries in the red zone. Luke Logan converted field goals of 36, 37 and 35 yards, respectively.
"The story of the day is the red zone," Mississippi coach Matt Luke said. "When you get down in the red zone against a good defense, and Auburn has a really good defense, you've got to find a way to score touchdowns."
Jordan Ta'amu was 27 of 46 for 324 yards with a 12-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown in the final period after Auburn had built an insurmountable lead. Brown finished with 10 receptions for 155 yards.
Auburn: Defensively, the Tigers were brilliant when the game was still in doubt, limiting Ole Miss to field goals and forcing the ball over on downs twice.
Deshaun Davis had 13 tackles, Nick Coe added three sacks and Marlon Davidson blocked a field-goal attempt.
The Tigers face three ranked teams, including archrival No. 1 Alabama in November, but the inspired performance should turn down the volume temporarily on Malzahn's job status. The Tigers need one win to become bowl eligible.
Ole Miss: The Rebels moved the ball effectively, but failure to reach the end zone in three quarters prevented keeping pace with Auburn. The offense performed unevenly after last week's season-ending injury to deep-threat receiver D.K. Metcalf.
The defensive unit was unable to get a stop during the crucial third quarter and finished without forcing a turnover despite an impressive 16-tackle performance from linebacker Mohamed Sanogo.
"Our defense gave us a chance in the first half," Luke said. "But in the second half, it was pounding away, pounding away and finally the dam broke. No excuses."
Auburn: The Tigers get an open date before hosting No. 17 Texas A&M on Nov.3.
Ole Miss: The Rebels, after an open date, host South Carolina on Nov. 3.
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