Defense Ole Miss

The Auburn defense stops an Ole Miss player in Saturday's 31–20 win over the Rebels

On Saturday morning, ESPN’s College Gameday was in East Lansing, Michigan for the Michigan – Michigan State game, but still had an effect all the way in Alabama. All four members of the show picked against Auburn to win on Saturday.

“Bet,” linebacker Zakoby McClain said on social media with a picture of the picks before the top-20 matchup. 

McClain and the No. 18 Auburn defense played a significant role Saturday’s 31–20 win over No. 10 Ole Miss, where the defense made three fourth-down stops and held Ole Miss to only three points in the second half. 

“We just see it on social media throughout the day,” defensive back Jaylin Simpson said. “... that’s when I saw (the picks).”

When the Tigers were backed up in the red zone on defense, Simpson reminded his teammates what transpired on College Gameday earlier in the day.

“I think a lot of (our performance) had to do with what we saw on College Gameday today,” Simpson said.

Well, consider this defense motivated. Even though the Rebels had over 450 yards of offense, the Tigers held them when it counted in a bend-don't-break mentality. Ole Miss had seven offensive drives end up inside the Auburn 20-yard line, and shut down all but one of the drives that ended up in the red zone. 

“Fourth down's our down,” McClain said. “Nobody's gonna get fourth downs on us. We're gonna fight until the end."

One of the late fourth down drives saw Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral roll out of the pocket and throw down the field, and Simpson jumping the route.

“How he read it, it was just good IQ,” McClain said. “... It was amazing.”

Simpson said the play was more on Corral than himself.

“(Corral) just made a poor decision and threw across his body,” Simpson said. “Very uncharacteristic of him.”

Linebackers Owen Pappoe, Chandler Wooten and McClain combined for 24 total tackles on Saturday, in what was Pappoe’s return from an injury. The junior linebacker had missed the previous four games after leaving early against Penn State. 

“Owen, he's a captain, he just brings the energy,” Simpson said. “He's the heartbeat of the defense.”

The defense also limited Ole Miss to 157 rush yards, the second-fewest they’ve had all season. The rushing attack of the Rebels had been a strong suit for the team all season, using it to help out their pass game. The lack of run opportunities against a stingy Auburn defense made them one-dimensional in a sense. 

“The run defense was huge,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “One thing about Ole Miss, we knew they were going to run the ball because they had been all season.”

The run defense has been clicking at a good time, as the Tigers will prepare to travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M next Saturday. The Aggies are much more effective in the run game than they are passing the ball, so it will be important for the Tigers to keep this up.

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