OXFORD, Miss. -- The final outcome was no longer in doubt, but the Texas A&M defense kept fighting.
The Aggie offense went for it on fourth-and-15 at their own 42-yard line and didn't get it, turning the ball over to Ole Miss with 5:35 still on the clock and the Rebels leading 23-3. After a couple of first downs, the Rebel offense had the ball first-and-goal at the A&M 7.
A&M stopped the Rebels on first down and second down, but Riley Garner was flagged for hitting Ole Miss receiver Markell Pack late, giving Ole Miss an automatic first down at the 1. Ole Miss ran the ball three times, and three times the A&M defense held. A personal foul on Ole Miss moved the ball back to the 16, and the Rebels just let the clock run out.
Five plays, 4 yards, no points -- all with the defense having nothing to play for but pride.
"I thought our defense came out and played hard, played hard until the end," A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
That was the story of the second half. While the A&M offense floundered, showing no signs of being able to catch Ole Miss on the scoreboard, the A&M defense did all it could to keep the possibility alive.
Ole's Miss third drive of the second half was the only bad one for A&M's defense after halftime. Rebel wide receiver Laquon Treadwell got behind the A&M secondary and Chad Kelly found him for a 58-yard touchdown pass. That drive went for 70 yards.
It was the only Ole Miss drive in the second half, and the only one of its last 14 possessions of the game, that covered than 30 yards.
While their offensive counterparts were stuck in the mud, players kept stepping up for the Aggie defense.
Sophomore Armani Watts had 20 tackles, four shy of the school record. His work included 16 solo tackles, including two tackles for a loss, and an interception, and for good measure he ripped the ball away from a Rebel receiver for a forced fumble that he recovered himself.
"Armani's been very, very solid this year," Sumlin said. "You look at all three of those safeties. Armani, Justin Evans and Donovan Wilson have made play after play after play for us back there. And putting them at the line of scrimmage, putting them deep, they've been very, very active in those positions."
Armani, Evans and Wilson helped A&M win the turnover battle 4-3, with Wilson also intercepting a pass.
And the A&M defense is the only reason the Aggies scored at all.
Defensive end Myles Garrett batted a Kelly pass into the air and caught it for an interception at the Ole Miss 33. The offense gained 7 yards in three plays and settled for Taylor Bertolet's 44-yard field goal.
"When I was watching the defense line, we were stoning them up front," A&M senior defensive tackle Julien Obioha said. "Up front I think we matched their physicality, and that's all you can ask our defensive line to do."