Late Big Plays and Questionable Clock Management Fail Ole Miss in Auburn Loss

Nate Gabler

Here's the thing about football: you don't score bonus points after the fact if the game ends and you haven't used all of your timeouts.

Ole Miss should have beaten Auburn on Saturday. 

The Rebels held a one-point lead over the Tigers with under two minutes to play. Then Bo Nix made the play of the day, connecting with Seth Williams with his best throw in the Vaught on Saturday, which Williams took 42 yards for the go-ahead score, breaking two tackles in the meantime. 

"We just got beat on that one," Kiffin said. "It's unfortunate and we're not making excuses. But the game's on the line and the nickel and the right corner are guys that one week ago were on offense. We're actually telling them what to do in the game. It is what it is."

The two-point conversion, which also went to Williams, set up the 35-28 Auburn victory. The Ole Miss defense actually played O.K. on Saturday, holding Bo Nix under 238 yards and Auburn under 30 points until late. But that big play, showcasing tackling issues, buried them. 

It wasn't just the big play—the Ole Miss coaches made their own mistakes late in the game before that touchdown. They managed the clock terribly and made questionable decisions with quarterback usage.

Understandably, when Ole Miss got the ball back late in the fourth quarter up one, it wanted to run the ball and melt clock. Two first downs would have won it the game. 

That led to the insertion of John Rhys Plumlee. Plumlee had moved the ball well on the ground some early this game, but Corral had led the offense back from trailing twice in the second half alone and was rushing well on his own. Instead of those critical first downs, Ole Miss went back and had to punt. 

Ole Miss brought Corral and the offense back on the field with under three minutes to play with a 4th-and-5 from midfield. Corral and Co. never snapped the ball, as the clock would tick down and Kiffin called a timeout. Ole Miss then punted.

What should have happened instead, if the plan was to punt, is taking a five yard penalty instead of using the timeout that you would need later. The punt would travel too far into the end zone anyways. Only use that timeout if you're going for it–if the plan is to punt, save the timeout. 

"That's fair to question that. We were trying to draw them offside with the hard count," Kiffin said. "Usually the timeout isn't important because we're ahead, but yeah I mean that's a very fair question."

Later, now trailing after the Auburn score and with only 1:11 to play, Kiffin seemed allergic to using his team's timeouts as Corral drove it into Auburn territory. On one play after a eight yard rush to the Ole Miss 44, over 18 seconds went off the clock between plays. Meanwhile the Rebel staff was sitting on two timeouts. They should've had three and they didn't even use the ones they had. 

This led them to simply run out of time, needing to sail an ill-advised Hail Mary attempt as time expired. 

Ole Miss might not have won the game even with better clock management. It's a huge what-if game, no doubt. But the players should've been positioned better late to have a shot. 

Kiffin and this staff have done a great job in general this season with their in-game decision making. They're going for it on fourth down in the correct situations, and clock management, until this Saturday, wasn't a problem. But Ole Miss could have won this game. 

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