Treadwell’s TD lifts No. 19 Mississippi past Auburn
With a defender draped over his back, Laquon Treadwell clutched the ball in both hands as he fell to the ground.
This touchdown, and this game, weren’t slipping from the grasp of No. 19 Mississippi and the Rebels’ star receiver.
Treadwell caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kelly in the fourth quarter and Ole Miss kept its Southeastern Conference title hopes alive with a 27-19 victory Saturday over Auburn.
"In those situations, you want to step up," Treadwell said. "I think every player on our team wanted to make that play. So when you get that opportunity, you’ve got to make it. The team was counting on me. The ball came to me, and I just had to make a play."
It was even sweeter because Treadwell’s 2014 season ended with a serious leg injury on a pivotal catch and fumble late in a loss to Auburn when both teams were gunning for the playoffs.
The Rebels (7-2, 4-1 SEC) made two straight defensive stands after grabbing the lead. Kelly hit Treadwell in the end zone with just over 10 minutes left and the league’s leading receiver held onto it even with cornerback Carlton Davis trying to rip the ball out.
Replay officials reviewed the catch and it stood.
The Rebels defense stood firm, too, after that. The Tigers couldn’t punch it into the end zone after a first down from the 3. Auburn drove across midfield again before failing to convert on fourth down and Ole Miss ran out all but eight seconds.
Rebels coach Hugh Freeze wasn’t about to punt the ball away after recent special teams disasters around college football.
"After watching all the games the last few weeks, I was not going to punt that thing," Freeze said. "I’ve seen too many bad things happen."
Auburn (4-4, 1-4) dropped its second straight after losing to Arkansas in four overtimes. Strong-armed backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson was hit as he threw and his Hail Mary attempt fell well short of the end zone on the final play.
Treadwell said earlier in the week he wanted to make the Tigers feel some of his pain, and he did. Treadwell had seven catches for 114 yards and completed a 21-yard pass to set up Gary Wunderlich’s third quarter field goal to snap a 10-10 halftime tie.
Freeze and Treadwell preferred focusing on the task at hand not the past.
"I told him, `This game was about us moving one step closer to winning an SEC West (title)," Freeze said.
He added that Treadwell said he felt the same way. "He told me, `I’m not worried about that, I just want to go play,’" Freeze said.
The Rebels still control their own destiny in the SEC West. They’re the only team to beat No. 7 Alabama and still play No. 4 LSU; those two teams play next weekend.
The league’s leading offense put up big numbers again.
Kelly completed 33 of 51 passes for 381 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions while also making plays on runs.
Jaylen Walton ran for 78 yards on 20 carries against the league’s worst defense. He also had 47 yards on three catches.
A gimpy Sean White was 12 of 28 for 258 yards for Auburn, including the first touchdown pass of his career and an interception.
Auburn had announced before kickoff that White’s status was uncertain with an undisclosed injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He wore a brace on his left knee and was limping at times.
"We didn’t know if he was going to be able to go until pre-game," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said. "He’s a champion. He’s not 100 percent but he stayed in there and fought."
Junior college transfer Jovon Robinson made his first big impact with leading rusher Peyton Barber not fully healthy. The highly rated recruit gained 83 of his 91 yards in the second half after not playing in the past four games.
Auburn started defensive end Carl Lawson, who had been out since he suffered a hip injury in the opener.
"We probably had more hits on the quarterback than we did all year," Malzahn said.