Rebel Comeback Falls Short On The Plains

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ Eli Manning and Mississippi couldn't pull off a miracle comeback, but they did put a scare into Auburn. Casinious Moore rushed for the first three touchdowns of his career and Auburn survived a Manning-led rally in his Southeastern Conference starting debut for a 27-21 victory on Saturday. The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 SEC) took a 27-0 lead in the third quarter before Manning led three touchdown drives of 80-plus yards in the final 18 minutes. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was still trying to sort out what happened to his team after it dominated much of the game. ``I still don't know why the game was so close,'' said Tuberville, who coached the Rebels from 1995-98. ``I thought we did almost everything right. ``When you're dominating a game 27-0, it is frustrating letting them come back. We let them back in the game and couldn't get a break for anything.'' He has Manning to thank for much of that. The sophomore marched the Rebels (1-1, 0-1) 80 yards on 14 plays as Charles Stackhouse ran up the middle for a 5-yard score with 4:41 left to make it 27-21. The Rebels converted two third-and-long plays and made a pair of fourth downs on defensive penalties to keep the drive alive. Ole Miss had only one timeout left, and Auburn managed to whittle most of the clock down with a first down and five running plays. The Rebels' hopes died with a running-into-the-punter penalty to give the Tigers another first down. ``I knew they had a stand-up kicker (Damon Duval), and I didn't want to be pinned back in our end zone,'' Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. ``I think we should have blocked it.'' Manning had a second straight impressive performance. He was 24-of-39 for 265 yards with an interception and a TD despite being held to 39 yards passing in the first half. His starting debut was a five-TD, 20-of-23 gem against Murray State, but this time he did it against a defense considered one of the conference's best. ``We just couldn't get things going in the first half and couldn't get in a rhythm,'' Manning said. ``With some young people going out there playing and the first time being in an SEC game and seeing things full speed, it just took some time to get used to it.''

The Rebels committed four turnovers that resulted in 17 Auburn points to lose their ninth straight league opener. The Tigers have won 17 of the last 19 meetings and nine straight home games. ``We didn't wake up until the second half, and we played so erratic early that it gets really tough on the road to come back like that,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We can learn from this though.'' Moore carried 16 times for 69 yards, including TDs of 11, 2 and 36 yards in an 11-minute span starting late in the first half. Starter Ronnie Brown had 84 yards on 25 carries, helping Auburn secure a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. Redshirt freshman Jason Campbell was 15-of-19 for 142 yards with an interception against his home-state team. The Rebels didn't make it into Auburn territory until recovering a fumble at the Tigers 47 midway through the third. That drive ended when Manning, facing a heavy rush, threw it directly to Auburn defensive back Stanford Simmons. The interception set up Moore's 36-yard scamper into the end zone to make it 27-0 midway through the third. Then, Manning got going. He led the Rebels on scoring drives of 80, 85 and 80 yards and had a 50-yard scoring strike to Omar Rayford to stun the Jordan-Hare Stadium record crowd of 86,063. As Tuberville said, ``That is a pretty good character builder after dominating the first three quarters.''