Passing Offense: B
One of the more interesting plays for the offense was when Jordan Rodgers looked like he was going to run but dunked it off to Jonathan Krause for an 8-yard gain. The best chance to get a touchdown in the first half was on third-and-goal when Rodgers was unable to find tight end Steven Scheu in the end zone. Vandy got the ball back with 22 seconds left in the first half and Rodgers found Jordan Matthews for a 19-yard pass that put the 'Dores in field goal position.
The Rebels took a 17-point lead to start the third quarter but Rodgers and Matthews were determined not to be defeated. After a pair of short completions to Matthews and Chris Boyd, Rodgers hit Matthews perfectly in stride for a 52-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead down to 10.
Vandy traded punts with the Rebels with excellent field position on third-and-10, Chris Boyd made an outstanding catch on the sideline for an 18-yard gain; Ole Miss challenged the play and it was held up for a first down.
Vandy tried at a flea flicker but the Rebels were not fooled and Rodgers was tackled for a loss of a yard. On the next play, Matthews found room on a short corner route to convert another third-down for 15 yards.
With less than a minute remaining and the 'Dores trailing 26-20, on third-and-6, Kris Kentera made an excellent catch up the seam for a 21 yards. On the next play Rodgers connected with Boyd down the left sideline for a 26-yard score. The extra point by Carey Spear sailed through the uprights to give the 'Dores a 27-26 with 52 seconds remaining. Rodgers completed a career-high 20 of 35 pass attempts for 267 yards and two scores.
Matthews hauled in 9 catches for 153 receiving yards; it was the junior receiver's fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season. Boyd was second on the team with 5 receptions for 64 receiving yards and a score.
Rushing Offense: C
It didn't start well for the 'Dores when Zac Stacy went down with an injury on the second play of the game and resulted in a fumble.
True freshman Kimbrow looked dangerous on a pair of runs for 8 and 18 yards near the end of the first quarter. Wesley Tate added two rushes for 20 yards but the 'Dores drive sputtered on first-and-goal on the 4-yard line. Tate was stuffed for a loss by sophomore defensive tackle Bryon Bennett and Rodgers was chased down on a boot by Cody Prewitt.
Vandy tried a direct snap to Kimbrow but Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant saw it immediately and tackled Kimbrow for a loss of 2 yards.
With Ole Miss leading by two possessions, Tate and Kimbrow were very limited as Vandy unsuccessfully tried to go to the passing game.
In the third quarter, after Vandy cut the lead to 23-13 and marched it way back inside the red zone, the running game took over and Kimbrow had a nice run for 8 yards on second down. Tate took a direct snap and powered his way for a first down on third-and-2. Tate and Kimbrow would trade carries before a second-and-goal on the two-yard line when Tate leaped into the end zone untouched for a score to cut the lead to 23-20.
The rushing game was unable to contribute for much of the rest of the night; Vandy had some success running to the outside but predominantly chose to go between the tackles and there was not much there for the 'Dores. With less than two minutes remaining, on fourth-and-2, Rodgers scrambled for just enough for a first down to keep the 'Dores hopes alive on the game winning drive.
Tate led the team with 15 carries for 43 yards and a score; Kimbrow was second on the team with 41 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Vanderbilt averaged 2.9 yards per rushing attempt with 104 total rushing yards on the night.
Passing Defense: D
Vandy had nearly no answer for Bo Wallace, who completed 31 for 49 pass attempts for 403 yards and a score. Junior receiver Ja-Mes Logan led the Rebels with 8 catches for 160 receiving yards. Sophomore Donte Moncrief also added 8 receptions for the Rebels for 74 yards receiving.
Ole Miss was able to punish the 'Dores for blitzing from the outside as Wallace was able to find receivers wide open over the middle. The Vanderbilt defense played well on first and second down but gave up long, third-down conversions of 15, 29, and 21 yards.
On third-and-29, sophomore receiver Vince Sanders beat Andre Hal for a 41-yard completion. Kenny Ladler was unable to get there in time to help prevent the long Rebel conversion. Very sloppy tackling helped contribute to the 19-yard reception by Korvic Neal on third-and-15.
In the Rebels opening drive of the second half, Donte Moncrief found a hole in the Vandy coverage for a 23-yard gain. Later on the Vandy 14, Jeff Scott added a 13-yard reception before Wallace punched it in for a 1-yard run. Bo Wallace found Ja-Mes Logan, who had got behind Eric Samuels, for a 37-yard completion.
The 'Dores got a break when Wallace had Ja-Mes Logan wide open but threw behind him. Later in the drive, Logan came over the middle and found room to run for a 47-yard completion that pulled the Rebels inside the 30.
With the 'Dores leading 27-26 and the Rebels nearing field goal range, the Vandy defense gave Wallace nowhere to run as defensive tackle Jared Morse wrapped him up to ensure the victory.
Strong safety Javon Marshall led the team with a career-high 11 tackles, including eight solo stops. Cornerback Andre Hal and free safety Kenny Ladler were tied for second with 8 tackles; Hal added 2 tackles for a loss, and three pass break ups.
Rushing Defense: A
One of the main causes for concern coming into the game was Bo Wallace's ability to run for additional yards. The 'Dores were excellent containing Wallace who rushed for 4 yards on 13 carries with a score.
The Rebels' fourth-and-1 gamble inside the Vandy 9-yard line paid off as running back Jeff Scott found 5 yards for a first down.
The Vandy defense toughened up after allowing Ole Miss to get into field goal range. On third-and-four, excellent pressure in the backfield by Kyle Woestmann and Chase Garnham sacked Wallace for a loss of 5 yards to force a 52-yard field goal attempt.
Wallace beat the 'Dores with zone reads late in the fourth quarter and marched the Rebels on a 13-play, 59-yard drive resulting in a 27-yard field goal to take a 26-20 lead. Ole Miss had a first-and-goal on the 6-yard line and freshman linebacker Larry Franklin got great pressure to tackled Wallace for a loss of 3 yards.
Defensive end Walker May led the defensive line with 6 tackles, including 3 for a loss, and a sack; Rob Lohr added 5 tackles, including 3 for a loss, and a 3-yard sack. Junior linebacker Karl Butler tallied 4 tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass break up.
Special Teams: B
Richard Kent had a beautiful punt that pinned the Rebels on their own 4-yard line; he kept the 'Dores in the game as four of his eight punts contained the Rebels inside their 20-yard line. Near the end of the first half, Kent boomed a 61-yard punt that flipped the field to start the Rebels off on their 5-yard line. The punt resulted in giving Vandy field position to kick the field goal that cut the Rebel lead to 16-6 going into half time.
Carey Spear kicked field goals of 22 and 44 yards goal as time expired in the first half to bring the Ole Miss lead back down to 10 points.
Jonathan Krause was pummeled throughout the game without calling a fair catch on punts.
Brian Kimbrow might have gotten away with one on kickoff return when he was very close to the goal line, took a knee, then decided he may have crossed the goal line and tried to take off for a run. Luckily, it was ruled a touchback by the officials.
Redshirt junior running back Warren Norman returned a kickoff 20 yards and cornerback Andre Hal returned another for a gain of 14.
The 'Dores gave up a 44-yard kickoff return to true freshman Jaylen Walton that set them up for the touchdown to start the second half.
With the exception of a flea flicker that was stopped for a loss of a yard, Vanderbilt played conservatively and did not take any major gambles. The Commodores made some excellent adjustments at half time and the passing offense came alive in the second half to help Vandy get its sixth win.
After the game, head coach Franklin noted what he told the players at the half.
"This Vanderbilt football team overcomes adversity." Franklin said. "This Vanderbilt football team knows how to win on the road. This Vanderbilt team knows how to win the tough games. This Vanderbilt team is going to find a way to get a "W" this week."
The players listened, overcame more adversity early when Ole Miss took the first possession of the second half, and scored to take a 17-point lead.
Despite Franklin's constant message of continuing to be 1-0 every week, he was asked about being bowl eligible for the second straight season. After a long game that lasted well into the night, he said they would enjoy it for the next 40 minutes and joked about who was next on the schedule (Tennessee).
"Who we playing next?" Franklin joked. "Who do we got?"
The loss of Zac Stacy, paired with the fumble and resulting Ole Miss touchdown, took the wind out of the 'Dores sails in the first half. Vandy was held without a third-down conversion and to just two field goals in the first half of play. Vandy had very limited success in the first half and was held to seven first downs.
In the second half, Vandy came alive and pulled through just in time with a thrilling 27-26 victory that sends the 'Dores to a bowl for their second straight season for the first time. Coach Franklin noted that Jordan Rodgers called the game-winning play at the line of scrimmage that resulted in the 26-yard score to Boyd.
The road only gets harder next week for Ole Miss with a trip to LSU before a home game against Mississippi State.
Next week the 'Dores return home for a matchup with Tennessee, who have an overall record of 4-6 after an exciting 51-48 four overtime loss to Missouri at home. The Volunteers are in bad company with Auburn and Kentucky, the only teams without a conference win.
Vanderbilt Report Card: Ole Miss
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