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November 1, 2008

Auburn drops fourth straight

Jevan Snead threw two touchdown passes, Cordera Eason rushed for 104 yards and Mississippi capitalized on a series of fourth-quarter mistakes by Auburn to beat the Tigers 17-7 on Saturday and move within a game of bowl eligibility.

With representatives of six bowls in attendance, Ole Miss converted Kodi Burns' second interception into a game-clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a drive that was aided by three Auburn penalties.

It was third Southeastern Conference win for Ole Miss (5-4, 3-3 SEC) under first-year coach Houston Nutt, matching the total put up in three seasons under former coach Ed Orgeron. The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Tigers (4-5, 2-4), who were 8-1 in Oxford coming into the game.

The Rebels need one more win to clinch one of the SEC's nine bowl bids. After a week off, they play Louisiana-Monroe before finishing the season at LSU and against Mississippi State.

After a week of intense scrutiny following a near collapse against Arkansas, Ole Miss cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn and Marshay Green each had their first career interceptions, helping to kill drives with the game on the line. Ole Miss' three interceptions of Burns were the most since four in the 2007 season opener against Memphis.

Burns' third and final interception ended Auburn's last threat with less than 4 minutes left.

The Tigers' offense continued to sputter and had as many points as punts. It was the fewest points for Auburn against Ole Miss since the Rebels beat the Tigers 13-7 in the 1965 Liberty Bowl.

The Tigers never crossed midfield in the first half and had just 80 yards in the first two quarters. They finished with 394 total yards of offense thanks to a handful of long pass completions, but never put together a consistent drive and were held to 75 yards rushing.

Burns completed 27 of 43 passes for 319 yards in playing his second straight complete game, but was a liability late.

Snead, meanwhile, got stronger as the game went on. He shook off a bad start to connect with Shay Hodge on a 2-yard touchdown late in the second quarter that was set up by a 29-yard catch and a 22-yard run by Dexter McCluster.

Despite the difficult first half, Auburn quickly got back in the game on the opening drive of the second half on a 27-yard run by Ben Tate to make it 10-7.

Two drives later, Auburn nosed into Ole Miss territory on a 29-yard pass from Burns to Montez Billings. But two plays later Johnny Brown tipped Burns' pass and Vaughn picked it off at the Ole Miss 40.

The Rebels drove to the Auburn 6, but a personal foul penalty backed them up and Joshua Shene missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.

On the next drive, Burns led the Tigers to the Rebels' 17, hitting Slaughter with a 42-yard pass. But three plays later Green stepped in front of a pass in the right flat and returned it to the 34.

The Rebels drove 66 yards for the clinching score - a 3-yard pass to a wide-open Derrick Davis in the right flat. The touchdown was set up by two facemasks and a pass interference penalty.

Snead finished 15-for-30 for 140 yards, connecting six times with Hodge for 62 yards. And Eason's rushing total was a career high.

The most important statistic for the Rebels, though, was zero turnovers. The team is now 5-0 when turning the ball over two or fewer times.


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