AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s Nick Marshall can’t be judged only by his passing yards.
The Tigers are using Marshall’s legs to regain respect in the Southeastern Conference.
Marshall ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Robenson Therezie scored on a 78-yard interception return and Auburn held off No. 24 Ole Miss 30-22 on Saturday night for its first win over a Top 25 team in two years.
“I thought he helped us win the game with his feet,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who said Marshall “showed a lot of toughness.”
Marshall had 14 carries, eight that produced first downs.
Auburn (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) already has topped its win total from last season, when it finished 3-9 and was 0-8 in the SEC.
“It gives us momentum heading into the next game and the rest of the season,” said running back Tre Mason, who ran for 77 yards and a touchdown. “We are trying to be the best team in the country, and we are going to continue to work toward that.”
Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2), coming off a 25-0 loss at No. 1 Alabama, has lost two straight.
“We have lost the momentum from our start, but that’s the game of football,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
Freeze said maintaining momentum isn’t easy when “you play in this conference in the situation we’re in, trying to build a program.”
Marshall, a junior college transfer in his first season at Auburn, showed he is continuing to gain confidence in Auburn’s read-option plays. Marshall scored on 5-yard runs in the second and third quarters.
Marshall’s second scoring run gave Auburn a 27-9 lead, but the game wasn’t over. The Tigers lost two turnovers in the fourth quarter to help the Ole Miss comeback attempt.
Ole Miss was held to only three field goals before Bo Wallace threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief in the third quarter and added a 12-yard scoring pass to Moncrief midway through the fourth quarter.
Malzahn has led a quick turnaround in his first season as the Tigers earned their first win against a top-25 team since beating No. 10 South Carolina in 2011.
Marshall, from Garden City Community College, completed 11 of 17 passes for 93 yards.
Only 93 yards passing?
“Me and Tre and a couple of the other backs were able make plays with our legs,” Mason said. “See the holes and hit them for good yardage.”
Wallace was 25 of 48 for 336 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Jeff Scott had six carries for 66 yards and Moncrief caught six passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Auburn had six sacks against Wallace, its high total since 11 sacks against Alabama in 2005. Much of the pressure came as Wallace struggled to find an open receiver.
“I know they weren’t blitzing a lot or anything like that,” Wallace said. “We will have to go back and look at the film and see what happened.”
Defensive ends Carl Lawson and Dee Ford each had two sacks. Defensive tackle Gabe Wright also had two sacks.
“I’m very happy with our defense,” Malzahn said. “There were some big plays in the fourth quarter when we needed it.”
Auburn moved 80 yards on its first possession. Marshall completed a 29-yard screen pass to Mason and had a 28-yard run before Mason scored from the 1.
Therezie picked off a pass intended for Laquon Treadwell late in the first quarter for his third interception of the season. Therezie’s 78-yard return was the eighth-longest in Auburn history.
Andrew Ritter kicked field goals of 42, 44, and 22 yards for the Rebels.
Trailing 27-22, Ole Miss had an opportunity to take the lead when Issac Gross recovered a fumble by Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne at the Ole Miss 40 midway through the fourth quarter.
Auburn’s defense quickly responded with an interception by Ryan Smith.
Auburn’s Cody Parkey kicked a 23-yard field goal with about 3 minutes remaining.
Marshall’s big game gave Auburn its school-record fourth 100-yard rusher of the season, following Corey Grant, Artis-Payne and Mason.
Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy hurt his neck on the final play of the first quarter and was taken to an area hospital. He was back on the sideline, wearing a neck brace and street clothes, in the third quarter.
McKinzy and other Auburn players were chasing Wallace, who escaped the rush and completed a pass.
Players from both teams stood and watched as medical personnel immobilized McKinzy on a flat board before he was placed on a stretcher. He was still wearing his helmet as he was carted off the field and taken to East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.
Freshman defensive tackle Montaviuis Adams hurt his knee on the same play and did not return.