AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Chris Todd passed for 212 yards, Ben Tate ran for 144 yards and Walt McFadden returned an interception for a touchdown to lift Auburn to a 33-20 win over No. 24 Mississippi on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-3, 3-3 SEC) scored 23 points in the third quarter and turned away Jevan Snead and the Rebels (5-3, 2-3) seven times on drives to midfield or beyond.
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Once ranked No. 4, Ole Miss had appeared to get back on track with two straight wins but couldn’t overcome a frenzied third-quarter flurry that led to a 24-point hole.
McFadden stopped the Rebels’ final chance by stepping in front of Snead’s pass near the Auburn goal line for his second pick in the final minutes. He also had a 29-yard return for a score in the third quarter.
Auburn got its offense going after dropping three straight games and raising fears of another late-season collapse. The Tigers dropped six of their last seven in 2008.
The teams traded huge momentum swings in the third quarter, combining for a wild 36 points. Auburn nearly reached its 24-point total of the previous two games.
The Tigers scored two touchdowns in 12 seconds to take a 24-7 lead with 11:25 left. First, Wildcat quarterback Kodi Burns tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tommy Trott. On the next play, McFadden snagged the ball with his right hand after it bounced off the hands of Markeith Summers, then shook off Summers and headed to the end zone.
Tate then scampered 53 yards for a score, becoming the fifth Auburn back to surpass 3,000 career yards.
Ole Miss couldn’t finish most of its sustained drives, but stayed alive with two big plays.
Jesse Grandy answered with an 82-yard kick return to push the margin back to 17 points, then the game got even wilder. Dexter McCluster sprinted 79 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-20. Joshua Shene’s point after attempt hit a teammate in the back and Demond Washington returned it all the way for two points.
Ole Miss had a nice chance to pull to within a touchdown midway through the fourth. Todd lost a fumble – and 21 yards – when he appeared to try to flick the ball away while going down. The Rebels recovered at Auburn’s 24, but lost 21 yards on three plays and a penalty.
It was typical of Ole Miss’s day of missed chances. McCluster had his second straight huge game, rushing for 186 yards on 22 carries and catching four passes for another 17 a week after racking up 260 all-purpose yards.
Snead couldn’t get going, completing 16 of 35 passes for 175 yards – 105 courtesy of Shay Hodge – and a touchdown and was hurt by several dropped passes.
Todd was 12-of-22 passing after managing just 127 yards the past two games combined. He hit a wide-open Darvin Adams for a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Ole Miss opened the game by breezing 94 yards for a touchdown without facing a third-down play but trailed 10-7 at halftime. Three Tigers had shots at recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, but the Rebels got it instead and Snead cashed in with a 7-yard touchdown pass to fullback Andy Hartman.
Ole Miss was 2 of 4 on fourth-down conversions and converted 3 of 15 attempts on third down.
Auburn safety Zac Etheridge sustained a neck injury after a helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate Antonio Coleman. His status wasn’t immediately available.