By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn piled up yards, if not points, and the defense didn’t permit many of either.
Bo Nix passed for a career-high 340 yards and had a 1-yard touchdown run and the 11th-ranked Tigers withstood Mississippi’s final drive to escape with a 20-14 victory Saturday night.
Auburn (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) mostly dominated on the stat sheet but struggled to put the 19-point underdogs away after repeated stalled drives and three missed field goals. Anders Carlson’s third miss, a 49-yarder with 1:14 to play, gave Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4) a shot at a winning drive.
A defense that has kept Auburn in every game made one final stop.
“When the game was on the line, I’m real proud of the offense flipping the field and real proud of the defense ending the game the way it did,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
The Tigers endured some harrowing moments along the way.
The Rebels, who had no timeouts left, quickly moved from their 31 into Auburn territory. Plumlee hit Braylon Sanders for a 17-yard pass after a holding call negated a big gain and then ran 20 yards.
Finally on fourth-and-3 from the 35, Plumlee scrambled around and made a desperation heave under pressure. Christian Tutt intercepted the ball and raced most of the way to the other end zone. And Auburn, which was coming off a 23-20 loss at No. 1 LSU, managed to survive.
Nix completed 30 of 44 passes, including a 78-yarder to Harold Joiner that set up Auburn’s first touchdown. Then he watched a defense that has kept the Tigers in every game.
“We’re confident in our defense, the best in the country, and they delivered for us again,” Nix said. “We had our chances, so we left it in the hands of them and thank goodness, they came through for us.”
Auburn outgained the Rebels 507-266 in total yards but couldn’t convert much of that production into points. Carlson did make kicks of 20 and 38 yards.
Nix’s fellow freshman D.J. Williams got most of his 24 carries and 93 yards in the second half. Anthony Schwartz gained 89 yards on nine catches, including a 50-yarder.
Plumlee led the Rebels on a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown march late to cut it to one score. Jerrion Ealy burst outside on fourth-and-1 from the 5 to set up Snoop Conner’s 1-yard run with 5:45 left. Auburn was flagged for two personal fouls on the drive.
“We tried to stay consistent in the run game, and it gave us a chance to win the football game,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “A few three-and-outs left our defense on the field a long time. I think that hurt our defense in the second half for sure. But they bowed their necks, fought their guts out and gave us a chance to have the ball, driving with a chance to win the football game.”
Nix answered in the battle of freshman quarterbacks with a final drive that included three passes for first downs and worked most of the clock down.
Malzahn called a timeout with 1:20 left facing fourth-and-2. Carlson’s potential clinching kick went wide right. The coach said he never considered trying to go for it and run down the clock.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and I’d do the same thing again,” Malzahn said.
Plumlee passed for 86 yards and ran for 92.
Mississippi: Couldn’t generate much of a passing game. Cut it to 10-7 at halftime with Plumlee’s 4-yard scamper with 44 seconds left. It was set up by Elijah Moore’s 55-yard punt return.
Auburn: First four drives generated 157 yards, two missed field goals, a fumble and a punt. But the defense remains one of the league’s stingiest, even short-handed.
Auburn safety Jeremiah Dinson missed the game with a virus and was replaced by Jamien Sherwood. Defensive end Marlon Davidson sat out with lower back tightness, with Derick Hall starting in his place.