It was one of the best games of the year with two of the best teams of the year—until it turned into one of the season's worst moments. In the end it was No. 3 Auburn pulling out a monumental victory, 35-31, but the story's about No. 4 Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell, who's almost certainly out for the season.
Auburn and Ole Miss traded blows throughout the second half, with each of the game's last three touchdowns changing the lead, and Ole Miss spent most of the last few minutes threatening to score a go-ahead touchdown.
But the game hinged on two late turnovers, both befalling Ole Miss at awful moments.
Bo Wallace fumbled inside the 10-yard line with under seven minutes to go, getting the ball chopped out of his hands in a pile near the first-down line. Auburn got the ball back without incident and was en route to the end zone when one of the most awful, cruel, horrendous plays you'll ever see befell Treadwell and the Rebels.
We won't embed the video or GIF here — it was gruesome — but Treadwell had just broken free on a screen pass and was heading for the end zone when he was (legally) dragged down from behind, injuring his leg in the process. Understandably, he dropped the ball, and a review determined that Auburn recovered in the end zone for a touchback with just 90 seconds left. Ole Miss got the ball back on a punt with 26 seconds left, but Ole Miss couldn't move the ball in the final frantic seconds, and that was that.
So it goes for Ole Miss, who takes a second loss and is effectively out of the race for the College Football Playoff and the SEC Championship. Thoughts go out to Treadwell, who was having an absolutely monster game (10 catches, 103 yards and a score) and whom we certainly hope will be back at full speed to devastate defenders in 2015.
Three things we learned
1. Auburn's in a driver's seat. The season's a long way from being over, so we're not handing out Playoff berths just yet, but even with the loss to Mississippi State on the ledger, Auburn just needs to win out and it's in. This win joins an increasingly impressive W up at Kansas State and a demolition of LSU (who's also improving week by week). And regardless of where Mississippi State ends up, it feels like the Iron Bowl is effectively a play-in game for the third or fourth playoff spot. Auburn just about controls its own destiny here and in November, that's a great situation to be in.
2. Let's hear it for Nick Marshall and Bo Wallace. With both defenses having, let's say, unpleasant evenings, Nick Marshall and Bo Wallace both had to have games of their lives against some elite defenses—and both did exactly that. Marshall gets the win with 254 yards and two scores on 15-for-22 passing, including some extremely difficult throws. Wallace, meanwhile, dropped 347 yards through the air and led the Rebels with 56 yards and another score on the ground. Plus if tragedy doesn't strike Treadwell at the worst possible moment, we're talking about another score for Wallace and a huge win on his record. So plaudits are absolutely deserved for both of these signal-callers, neither of whom deserved to lose.
3. For Ole Miss, a betrayal from its biggest strength. Say what you will about Bo Wallace's late turnover in the red zone — and lord, it was bad — but Wallace was easily a net positive. No, this is about the vaunted "Landshark" defense getting eviscerated by the Gus Malzahn spread. Yes, Auburn's offense is great, one of the best systems in college football today. But the whole deal of "the best defense beats the best offense" and "defense wins championships" fell flat here, and it was shocking to see the best unit in the nation (from a scoring defense standpoint) give up so many long, sustained scoring drives.