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Auburn takes down Ole Miss

By By Joey Vaughan / special to The Star
Nov. 2, 2002
OXFORD Maybe Ole Miss hasn't packed it in for the season just yet.
The Rebels showed more life than they had in weeks against Auburn Saturday, but a Travaris Robinson interception in the end zone in the closing minutes secured a 31-24 win for the Tigers in front of 60,635 at chilly Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss tried to come back from a 31-17 fourth-quarter deficit, but Eli Manning threw the third of his crucial interceptions with 1:32 left, and Auburn ran out the clock.
Ole Miss continued to have many of the same problems that had plagued them in blowout losses at Alabama and Arkansas. Ronnie Brown ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns for Auburn, while the Rebels managed just 74 rushing yards.
Eli Manning was 26-of-46 for 284 yards and three touchdowns, but his three interceptions were critical. Two led directly to Auburn touchdowns in the second half and the third ended the Rebel threat to tie. On the last one, Manning was scrambling near the line when he saw Trey Fryfogle open in the end zone. Manning had running room, and would have probably made at least the 2-yard line had he run, but his pass was intercepted when Fryfogle turned to block, assuming Manning was running.
I'll take the blame on that."
Auburn became bowl-eligible, improving to 6-3 and 4-2.
Brown broke the deadlock early in the second quarter when he broke a 55-yard run that set up his first touchdown, a 1-yarder. The Tigers converted a fourth and four deep in Rebel territory before going up 7-0. Brown reeled off his second long run of the game on Auburn's next possession, a 49-yarder that put the Tigers up 14-0.
Ole Miss got its first score with 4:32 left in the first half when Jonathan Nichols hit a 30-yard field goal. Manning got the Rebs back in the game on Ole Miss' first possession of the second half, hitting Chris Collins for a 41-yard touchdown. Collins, who finished with eight catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns, made a nice over-the-shoulder grab on the deep ball and dragged the Auburn cornerback into the end zone to make it 14-10.
After a Damon Duval punt pinned Ole Miss on its own 1-yard line, Manning tripped on third down in the end zone for an Auburn safety, putting the Tigers up 16-10 with 9:41 left in the third.
The Rebels took their only lead with 5:11 left in the third when Manning hit Collins for a 12-yard touchdown. Auburn showed blitz on the play, and Manning pointed at the spot he wanted Collins to be in, and Collins beat his man on a slant route for the score and a 17-16 lead.
That's when Manning got into interception trouble. An interception by Carlos Rogers when Mike Espy slipped set up Auburn at the Ole Miss 21, and Brown scored his third touchdown on the next play. The Tigers got a two-point conversion for a 24-17 lead.
After another Manning interception, this one on a tipped ball, Tiger quarterback Jason Campbell hit Ben Obomanu for a 20-yard touchdown and a 31-17 lead.
A 36-yard pass from Manning to Taye Biddle to the Auburn eight on the next Rebel drive set up Collins third touchdown catch of the day, an 8-yarder on third and goal to cut it to 31-24.
Ole Miss got the ball in its own 33 midway through the fourth quarter and drove to the Tiger 8-yard line, but Manning's final interception on third down killed Ole Miss' comeback chances.
Ole Miss travels to Athens, Ga., next week to take on No. 5 Georgia.