For the first time this season, Auburn has pieced together a complete performance.
The Tigers were solid in all three phases of the game—and through all four quarters of the game—in Saturday night's 30-22 upset win over No. 24 Ole Miss in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We talked about getting better each week," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "We knew we were going to have to play better than we did against LSU to have a chance to beat them, and we did."
Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall led the way for Auburn with 233 total yards and two touchdowns, throwing for 93 yards through the air on 11-of-17 passing, while adding 140 yards and both of his scores on 14 carries in his best rushing performance of the season.
Junior running back Tre Mason added another 139 total yards and a touchdown, running for 77 yards and a score on 21 carries, while catching three passes for 62 yards.
More importantly, the entire Tigers team as a whole put together its best performance of the season, and played with consistency throughout.
"I think we played all four quarters," senior defensive end Dee Ford said. "Definitely a lot to clean up, definitely. But we still played pretty sound, and at pivotal times. I think we executed very well offensively and defensively.
"Most complete game of the season I would say, but we still have a long way to go."
Ford helped the Auburn defense put together an impressive overall performance against an explosive Rebels offense, pulling down Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace twice. The Auburn defense finished the game with six sacks—the Tigers' most in a single game since Auburn sacked Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle 11 times in the famous "Honk If You Sacked Brodie" game.
The Tigers also logged their first defensive touchdown of the season in the first quarter, when safety-linebacker hybrid defensive back Robenson Therezie picked off Wallace and returned it 78 yards for a score, to give the Tigers a 13-3 lead early.
"I am very proud of our defense, especially in the fourth quarter," Malzahn said. "We had a long run. We turned the ball over. They held them, and got the ball back for us. I thought that was a huge key. Also punting the ball on the one-yard line, I thought was a big key to the game."
As Malzahn describes, the Rebels put together a strong effort at a comeback bid late in the game, but the Tigers stood tall. After Cameron Artis-Payne fumbled the ball away to Ole Miss midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Rebels the ball down just 27-22, the defense forced its second turnover of the game when Ryan Smith picked off Wallace over the middle just three plays later.
To end the ensuing drive, Jonathan Jones downed a punt by Steven Clark at the Rebels' own one-yard line—further dashing Ole Miss' chances at putting together a late score.
Kicker Cody Parkey added the last score of the game, on a 23-yard field goal to give Auburn its ultimate 30-22 lead, before the Auburn defense came up with one more stop to seal the game.
A complete performance—offense, defense and special teams.
The win moves Auburn to 4-1 on the season, and 2-1 in SEC play. For Marshall and Tigers, it was just another step on the road to redemption for a team that went winless in SEC play last season.
"It gives us a big jump going into next week's game," Marshall said. "It will prepare us for on down the road against other SEC teams."
For Malzahn, it was a landmark win—against one of his close friends in Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.
"I have a lot of respect for Hugh," Malzahn said. "He's one of the best in the business. His team is one of the up-and-coming teams. He's done a great job with the program. I just told him good luck, and he's a good friend of mine, and I'm glad that game is over."
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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