‘It’s awesome’: Ole Miss breaks 71-year curse, beats Auburn for second-straight season

Published: Oct. 22, 2023 at 8:30 AM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WLBT) - In a stadium that has housed one of the most infamous plays in the history of college football - the kick-six against Alabama in 2013 - it was the Rebels that produced some magic of their own to break a 71-year curse 10 days away from Halloween.

Ole Miss has only won three (now four times) times in their history at Auburn’s famous Jordan-Hare Stadium and lost eight of their last nine away contests against the Tigers before Saturday night.

However, Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss likes to make history, and led by sophomore superstar running back Quinshon Judkins and a scary good defense, another historic win is in the books for the number 13-ranked Rebels after downing the Tigers 28-21 on the plains.

Judkins a nightmare for home-state team

Ole Miss’ elusive ball-carrier grew up less than an hour from Auburn University in Pike Road, Alabama, but it was Lane Kiffin who gave him his first scholarship offer out of high school in 2022.

Coming back home for the first time in his collegiate career just a year later, it was Judkins who made Auburn pay for their sins with a monster performance.

“I did. I think he’s had something against this state, going back to [when we played] Troy and how angry he ran,” Kiffin said when asked if he knew Judkins would have a big game. “That was awesome to see him play that well and be physical and have that mindset to practice like that all week.”

For the second straight week, quarterback Jaxon Dart and the passing game were off the mark and were in desperate need of a spark. Enter Quinshon Judkins.

The explosive running back was finding holes in-between the tackles and outside of the hash marks all night for the Rebels, rushing for 124 yards with 21 carries and a touchdown. Judkins averaged 5.9 yards a carry, with the Ole Miss offensive line deserving credit for winning the line of scrimmage.

The Rebels as a team rushed for 223 yards compared to its 202 passing yards.

A new Ole Miss

Lane Kiffin-led teams have typically been known as flamboyant, flashy, explosive, and misdirection - along with the fourth down plays that can drive fans crazy. But this Lane Kiffin team is different.

While there were fourth down attempts and the occasional explosive plays in the passing game sparingly, it was a physical, smash-mouth brand of football that Ole Miss used to gain an edge over Auburn.

The Rebels attempted 56 rushes versus 18 passes, one of which resulted from a muffed hold on a field goal try by the Ole Miss backup punter.

It wasn’t a pretty game on the eyes for large stretches of the matchup - particularly through the second and third quarters. But, for a team that has failed to take control in the fourth quarter in recent years, fourth-quarter dominance has been an identity of this Ole Miss team.

But it didn’t matter. As this season has continued, Ole Miss has proven on more than one occasion that they can win ugly, and that is a beautiful site for Rebel nation.

“It’s been what, 71 years since this team has won here? It’s always a hard place to play at night, a hard place to play in general. They believe they’re going to win. We’ve been here at night before and didn’t win with a good team. So, it was great today for that to happen,” Kiffin said.

Ole Miss defense thrives - again

While the Auburn offense, orchestrated by offensive mastermind and former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, is far from spectacular, the Rebels’ defense proved once again that a new era of Ole Miss defense has begun under first-year defensive coordinator Pete Golding.

“I didn’t know it would happen so fast this season,” Kiffin said when asked about the quick defensive turnaround led by Golding. “I’ve known him for years and going back to his first interview with Saban, people in the room said that it was the best interview Saban had ever seen. I didn’t know we’d ever have the chance to get him. It has worked out and it’s awesome and we’re seeing it pay off. I think everyone is happy with that.”

To win big road games and do something you haven’t done in over 70 years, you need a good defense to bank on in primetime games. Ole Miss can now do that, and the offseason hiring of Golding is paying its dividends each week.

It was important for Ole Miss not to lose the turnover battle against a team that creates the most turnovers in the SEC. Despite the Ole Miss offense turning over the ball twice, the Rebels’ D was able to generate two turnovers of their own by picking off both Auburn quarterbacks - Payton Thorne and Robbie Ashford.

The fast, physical defense made Auburn one-dimensional for the majority of the night and held Auburn scoreless in the second half until the Tigers converted a consolation touchdown with 50 seconds left on the clock.

The Tigers attempted 17 pass plays compared to their 39 rushing plays.

As a team, the Rebels recorded three sacks, nine tackles for loss, while allowing just 275 yards of offense and holding Auburn to a 28 percent third down conversion rate. It’s the first time since 2009 that Ole Mis has held their opponent yo under 300 yards.

“Credit to the players for making plays. The DBs made some plays today,” Kiffin said praising the defense. “You gotta give Pete Golding some credit. He took a lot of heat after the LSU game, just like our defense did, and has come back and the defense has played their best games since I’ve been here or in a long time, really.”

With the victory over Auburn, Ole Miss improves to 6-1 on the season and controls their own destiny in the hunt for their first SEC West Division crown in 20 years. The Rebels host Vanderbilt next Saturday on homecoming day.

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