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Dragging an Auburn defender on what initially looked to be a go-ahead touchdown, Laquon Treadwell fought his way toward the end zone, but had his ankle rolled over and fumbled into the end zone.

In the moments that followed, the initial touchdown call was overturned in favor of Auburn, and Treadwell was carted off the field with an air cast and tears in his eyes.

"It's definitely a fracture," said head coach Hugh Freeze of the injury. "It was obvious, even to me. If I can see it, I know they can see it. I don't know anything other than that. I can't tell you all the details of it. It's definitely a fracture."

"He was phenomenal," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace, tearing up talking about the injury. "He was really upset. It was tough to see."

Before the injury, Treadwell was having perhaps the best game of his Ole Miss career. He had a career-high 10 catches, tied for the fourth-most in school history, for 103 yards and a touchdown. Treadwell also made two key downfield blocks to spring Wallace for a 59-yard run, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown the next play.

"He sort of took the game over," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "That's why we were calling those types of plays knowing that he is hard to tackle. That one he could have been tackled about three times and just got rolled up on. Those things happen in football. It's a shame, but they happen."

Ole Miss matched Auburn score for score, as the offense rolled up 492 yards of total offense, but down four late in the fourth quarter, the Rebels fumbled at the Auburn 1-yard line on back-to-back drives, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a 35-31 loss to the Tigers.

"When you watch the game, if they're really watching games, we can't drop far," said Wallace, who was 28-of-40 for 341 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We lost a game by that much. I just watched the replay of Laquon (Treadwell). 

"We lost it by that much. I don't see how far they can drop us. Our season is still alive, we feel like. We'll find out Tuesday (with the College Football Playoff rankings) how far we fall, but we're going to keep fighting, and crazy things can happen."

Visiting with Treadwell after the game, Werner said Treadwell is emotionally down obviously, but he told him he's a warrior and he played probably his best game yet.

"These things happen, and he'll bounce back," Werner said. "That's what we do here. It's going to be tough, but somebody else has to step up and that's what Coach Freeze talks about all the time. We lost guys before, and it seems like somebody will step up and the team responds."

In Treadwell's absence, a quartet of receivers in senior Vince Sanders, junior Cody Core, sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and freshman Markell Pack will be asked to step up in terms of production and leadership. 

More will also be asked of sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who came in with Treadwell and was behind him on the play where he suffered his injury and fumbled into the end zone.

"It's really tough to be just a foot away from national championship implications," said Engram, who caught eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. "That's tough to grasp, but we still have three games left. We can't just turn the switch off. We have to come back in tomorrow and prepare for Presbyterian. 

"This one stings really bad. We're going to learn from it and we're going to get better from it. We're going to bounce back and be stronger from it."

UPDATE, 12:41 A.M. CT:

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Auburn

Three areas to watch as No. 4 Ole Miss hosts No. 3 Auburn in a Southeastern Conference Western Division showdown featuring half of the top four teams in the initial College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

Bounce-Back Bo

Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace has had his two statistically-worst games the last two weeks, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards against Tennessee and 13-of-33 passes for 176 yards against LSU. 

Wallace had attempted 140 passes and carried the ball 61 times before turning the ball over on a game-ending interception against LSU. The Rebels were also held to season lows in points (7) and total yards (313) in the 10-7 loss to the Tigers last week.

"A lot of times when we're throwing right now it's third down," Wallace said. "We're staying in third and long so much. People get in their defenses and it's hard in this league to convert third downs as well as people play third-down defense. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season."

"I would say this for our entire team, not just Bo, our demeanor was a bit different in that environment," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We let things get to us that have not bothered us earlier in the season. It seemed to rattle us a little bit. He missed some open guys. He also made some really good throws. It just seemed that our demeanor was a little bit different as a team. I haven't noticed any mechanical things that are any different."

Freeze has been pleased with Wallace's demeanor in practice, describing it as typical for him.

"He bounces back," he said. "He's resilient and he's hungry to get back out and play again."

Finding Traction on the Ground

The strength of the Auburn defense has been against the run, while the weakness of the Ole Miss offense has been its rushing attack.

Auburn has allowed just 3.37 yards per carry, tied for fifth-best in the SEC, and has allowed an opponent to average 4.0 yards or more per carry just twice this season, giving up 153 yards on 29 carries against Arkansas and 223 yards on 44 carries against Mississippi State.

Ole Miss ranks fourth in the SEC in passing offense (268.8 ypg) but just 12th in the SEC in rushing offense (149.5 ypg). The Rebels also rank 12th in the SEC in yards per carry (3.87), and have been held under 4.0 yards per carry four times this season.

Ole Miss eclipsed 4.0 yards per carry against LSU, averaging 4.03 yards per carry, but the offense struggled to find consistency, particularly in the second half. The Rebels ran the ball on first down nine times in the second half, and none of those rushes went for more than two yards.

The key in the run game, as it has been all season, more than any statistic, is keeping the offense on schedule and out of obvious passion situations.

"It's difficult to run in this league," Freeze said. "We have some challenges that we have to continue to work on and try to find what the best way is to attack defenses to  stay somewhat balanced so we're not having to throw it every down and they know we're going to throw it. That's a bad feeling and a difficult way to go about being successful."

Gleeson, Bray Headline Special Teams Battle

Field position can be gained and games can be won by special teams, and Saturday's showdown features two of the nation's best in the Ole Miss punt unit and the Auburn punt return unit.

Ole Miss redshirt-freshman punter Will Gleeson was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after his game against LSU, having landed four of his six punts inside the 10-yard line. 

For the season, he has landed 20 of his 38 punts inside the 20, as he has helped the Rebels rank second in the SEC and fourth nationally in net punting with a 42.8 average. 

Auburn senior wide receiver Quan Bray earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors earlier this season, returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech, one of three total touchdowns for him in the game.

Bray leads the nation in punt return average (25.2 ypg) and has two punt return touchdowns this season, as he has helped the Tigers lead the nation in punt returning with a 23.45 average.

Not only will Saturday's matchup between No. 4 Auburn and No. 7 Ole Miss feature the first-ever meeting of top-10 team in Oxford, but it will feature half of the top four of the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4.

Auburn and Ole Miss are the top two one-loss teams in the rankings, followed by Oregon at No. 5 and Alabama at No. 6, giving the Southeastern Conference Western Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining among the four teams, starting with Saturday's matchup.

"My first reaction was that we will always be the answer to one of those AFLAC trivia questions," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll be answer for one of them when the duck comes across the TV screen. That was really what I thought.

"I have great respect for the selection committee, and we are honored to be in the discussions at this point, but it's way too early. It's good for our fans. It gave them a little boost and hopefully will get them to bring some more energy into the stadium Saturday. There's a lot of ball left and the only one (ranking) that really matters is on Dec. 7 when that final one comes out."

Rebels Ready for Balanced Auburn Attack

Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.5 ppg allowed) and has given up a nation-low eight touchdowns. Ole Miss also leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally, giving up just 4.35 yards per play. 

Auburn ranks third in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring offense (39.3 ppg) and ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally, averaging 6.91 yards per play.

Something has to give.

For Auburn, it starts with the league's top rushing attack 281.0 ypg), led by league's second-leading rusher in running back Cameron Artis Payne (118.7 ypg) and seventh-leading rusher in quarterback Nick Marshall (83.0 ypg).

Marshall's improvement as a passer and a talented group of receivers, led by JUCO transfer D'haquille Williams (34 catches, 527 yards, five TDs), have made the Tigers more balanced this season.

"The minute you commit too many to controlling him, they have guys who make you pay and pay with explosive plays," said Freeze of Marshall. "Gus (Malzahn) has always done a great job of disguising his looks, motions and shifts. 

"He does a great job with a lot of eye candy and things that can get your eyes in bad positions and cause you to make mistakes that give them explosive plays. Our goal will remain to be steady and discipline and hopefully not give up too many explosive plays."

Optimism on Injury Front

The injury situation continues to improve, as it appears offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, safety Cody Prewitt and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will all return to action against Auburn, having practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Every one them is going to give it a go," Freeze said. "With the stretch of games we have gone through without a break, it takes a toll on you both physically and mentally, some more than others. They did get some dings the other night (against LSU) that will probably keep them for being 100 percent, but they are going to give it a go for sure."

Center Ben Still was also listed day-to-day by Freeze on Monday, and his status remains uncertain, having worked individually Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan, Freeze said, is for him to practice with the team Thursday and see how he handles it.

"One day will tell us if he's ready to handle what we're going to face Saturday," Freeze said. "It will be nice to have him for sure because we had three possession the other night where it really hurt us in that game because of the injuries. It would be nice to have him thrown in there and let Robert move around and help us. We'll see how he does tomorrow."

Safety Chief Brown, who was thought to be out for the year, dressed out but did not play against LSU. With Prewitt dinged up, Brown has received significant practice reps at free safety.

"I expect to see him play some Saturday," Freeze said. "We'll see how he responds. It's a long season, but my guess would be we're going to need him before it's over."

AUDIO: Week 10 SEC football coaches teleconference (Freeze starts at 1:03:00 mark, Malzahn starts at 1:47:25 mark)

How the playoff committee to its first ranking decision, writes George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports

 

There are a lot of connections and similarities, as No. 24 Ole Miss prepares for its third straight road game of the season on the Plains against Auburn.


Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn served as Arkansas State's head coach in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and both teams run similar up-tempo offenses.


"We certainly can look just alike offensively, if we wanted to," Freeze said of the two offenses. "We'll be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense. But having said that, both of us can change a lot during the course of a week, and he has two weeks to do whatever he is going to do. He will dress things up and add some wrinkles that we haven't seen.


"We are very, very similar in the things we do offensively, so it can help prepare us. You never know exactly what to prepare for. We'll show them that our defense wants to see, but there will be something that we don't cover that we will see Saturday night."


Freeze and Malzahn met when they were high school coaches and they traveled in the same circles of clinics and speeches. Their relationship grew when they were both assistants in the SEC in 2006. At that time, Freeze was the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Ole Miss, and Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas.


"It is somewhat eerily similar the paths we have shared many times," Freeze said. "We wish we were not in the same half of this conference, which would be nice. We would see each other just every so often and be able to help each other, but that's not reality, so we have to go and play.


"During the offseason, we would communicate quite a bit. Before this week, we would text maybe once a week, maybe a phone call, depending on who he's playing, and who I'm playing, we may talk some, without compromising each other's plan of any type. That's not real frequent. It's more of a texting, 'Good luck,' or "How are you doing?' deal."


Aplin Reunites With Two Former College Coaches


Another connection between Freeze and Malzahn is former Arkansas State quarterback and current Ole Miss administrative intern Ryan Aplin, who joined Freeze's staff after a very successful college career under Freeze and then Malzahn.


A two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Aplin led the Red Wolves to back-to-back conference championships in 2011 and 2012 and completed his four year-career with more than 25 combined single-game, season and career school record and as the conference's all-time leader in completions, passing yards and total offense.


"I like to hire good people who played for me," Freeze said of hiring Aplin. "I like to take care of those guys. When Ryan's NFL deal fell through this year, it was a no-brainer. If I had a quality control spot open, I would certainly want him here, just like I hired Ben Aigamaua who played for me also, and I will continue to try to hire good people that know what we do and the core values of our program."


As an intern, Aplin works with co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Dan Werner charting data, analyzing film and performing other administrative duties. 

"I had a conversation with Ryan early this week," Freeze said. "I know he's very close to both out us, and I don't want him to feel uncomfortable at all in anything that's going on. I'm sure Gus has changed everything from when Ryan was there. But at the same time, we had changed some things, too. 


"People, though, who work or play for you for a while, there's only so much you can change. They still can probably tell if it's run or pass. Now, if you can do that in time to make calls, I don't know. We won't put Ryan in that position. We're going to move him down from the press box to the field in this game. He'll be involved in helping us this week for sure, but we want him to feel good about the way that everything goes about."



'They Remind Me A Lot Of Us Last Year'


Inheriting a team that went 3-9 last season and winless in the SEC, Malzahn has Auburn off to a 3-1 start this year, with home wins over Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. The Tigers' only loss was in their last game at then-No. 6 LSU, as they enter this week coming off a bye.


"They remind me a lot of us last year," Freeze said. "They are a vey, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, energy and passion. That's doesn't surprise me at all with Gus' leadership. They're off to a great start and have been very, very good at home, and we have to go there for another road trip in a hostile environment on a Saturday night. That's a big game for both schools sitting at 3-1. He will have them ready.


"He's got them playing extremely hard, and you face an offense that is very balanced in rushing and passing. They give you a lot of looks, motions and smoke and mirrors, and they are very efficient at what they do. Defensively, Ellis is one of the best in the business and is very, very multiple. You have to prepare for most anything."


Offensively, the Auburn rushing attack ranks third in the SEC with 232.2 yards per game, led by junior running back Tre Mason with 84.5 yards per game and four touchdowns. First-year quarterback Nick Marshall is 60-of-103 for 809 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions, and ranks sixth in the SEC in total offense with 239.3 yards per game.


R. Nkemdiche At Defensive Tackle


Having lined up primarily at defensive end in the first three games of the season, freshman Robert Nkemdiche moved inside for most of the game against Alabama. Freeze was overall pleased with the move, but it may not be permanent.


"We'll continue to look at where it's best to put him from week to week," Freeze said. "I wouldn't say it permanent. We'll look at what we're facing.


"He did fine. He made a few mistakes, but so did everyone. He graded out around 82 percent. He only had a few missed assignments. He made several tackles. He is very strong and tough to move around. He played real solid for a game of that magnitude against that offensive line in that arena."


Bouncing Back


Coming off the 25-0 loss at No. 1 Alabama, it was about learning from the loss, then putting it in the trash and preparing this week for Saturday against Auburn.


"One of the things about our program that I hope our kids see is that our coaches don't blink," Freeze said. "You have to play the next play. Yesterday, all of us didn't like losing. But again, it had been a while since we had lost compared to a few years back.


"We came into the team meeting. Sunday is about the truth. We told the truth about the offense, the defense and the special teams, and we put it in the trash and then went out and practiced with a lot of energy. I was real pleased with everyone's spirit."


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