A Deeper Look

Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback, is having a sensational season. Three interceptions against Ole Miss and a net minus-30 yards rushing on three carries were not the norm.


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Ole Miss defender Cody Prewitt said the Rebels coming up with those three interceptions, two of them in the end zone to halt LSU drives, were huge in a lot of ways.

"We get turnovers like that, that's going to stick in your head. You're going to be that much more confident on the field the next week. That's going to help us build on this. Turnovers are addictive, I guess. When you get one, you want another one."

Ole Miss had a walking wounded list a mile long this past week. Prewitt said some of the newer Rebels stepped in and stepped up.

"We had younger guys step up and do exactly what they needed to do," said Prewitt, who had seven tackles including three solos, in addition one of the picks. "I'm really proud of them. They're going to continue to keep growing and get even better, and that's good for Ole Miss."

Prewitt said the Rebels have won some games this year and last year and have been close in others. Breaking through in a game like this means much to the team and program.

"We've been in games we should have won but we didn't," he said. "We'll treat Idaho (this weekend) just like they're another top-notch program in the SEC. They can make plays, too. It will take another week of incredible focus and preparation."

Prewitt said he and his teammates remained self-assured this week they could knock off the powerful Tigers in Oxford.

"I was confident the whole time," he said. "I know whenever we put our minds to what we're doing, we could do something like this. We've learned that now, and this puts a lot of confidence back in our heads and will carry us on through."

Believe? Prewitt said absolutely the Rebels did.

"You can't beat the No. 6 team in the nation if you don't believe it," he said. "We went into every practice, every meeting this week, believing we could do it. We put our minds to it and did what we were supposed to do. I'm not surprised we won the game. I know what we're capable of."

Second Chance Success

Andrew Ritter had actually already made one field goal in the game, a first-quarter 28-yarder that put his team up 3-0.

Then came three successful extra point kicks following touchdowns before a field goal miss that at the time seemed it could prove fatal for Ole Miss.

The score in the third quarter was 17-0 in favor of the home-standing Rebels, who were trying to extend a 24-17 lead to ten points with 6:29 to go in a thriller.


Cody Prewitt
USA TODAY Images

But his kick of 29 yards toward the stadium's north end zone goal post was blocked, and Ole Miss led by just a touchdown. The Tigers, who had found their offense, were ready to make a move. And they did, tying the game 24-24 minutes later.

But the Rebels got the football back with 3:15 to go and everything to win and only another heartbreaker to lose.

Bo Wallace directed his offense downfield and set things up for Ritter to try again.

And this time he made it.

It was a 41-yarder and was kicked with six seconds to go on the clock, again toward the north. LSU received the kickoff – from the leg of Ritter - and tried to move it downfield throwing the football around. But to no avail as the Rebels prevailed.

What was Ritter thinking between the miss and the make?

"I was thinking ‘Please let me have another opportunity.' I let my team down, and I knew I had to make up for it," Ritter, the fifth-year senior from Jackson said.

The Rebels had basically played their guts out, shorthanded by injuries and lack of depth, but certainly giving it all they had. Ritter knew that and wanted to seal the deal for his teammates.

"The offense and defense had played such a great game," Ritter said. "We'd played such a great game all the way around. I had let my team down at that point in time. And so once we got the ball and started driving down the field, it was such a great feeling to know I'd have a chance to make up for it."

Ole Miss had started the drive at its 15-yard line. In 14 plays – yes, 14 plays – covering 61 yards to the Tiger 24, they arrived. And Ritter was ready.

"I just give glory to God that I was able to make it," he said.

Last week, Texas A&M placekicker Josh Lambo made a 33-yarder as time expired for a 41-38 Aggie victory.

Ritter admitted he remembered.

"It definitely crossed my mind," he said. "It was crazy. A week ago, it was same end zone, same hash, a little farther kick this week. Texas A&M kicks the game-winner. This Saturday night, I was having a chance to do it. It crossed my mind for at least a split second. But all that didn't matter. All that mattered was that I make mine."

Ritter, like his teammates, coaches, and fans, was filled with emotion.


Andrew Ritter
The Associated Press

"This is what you sign up for," he said. "I love this team, I love this staff, I love this school, I love these fans, I love the state of Mississippi. I loved helping us get this victory."

Running Rebels

Jeff Scott, so valuable in the offensive backfield, couldn't play. Others had to step up. Jaylen Walton clearly did.

The Memphis sophomore rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns against the Bengal Tigers.

"It felt great to come out and play on the big stage and play for each other," he said.

Another sophomore running back, I'Tavius Mathers, rushed 13 times for 52 yards.

"We're confident in Coach (Hugh) Freeze and the whole coaching staff," Walton said, "because we feel good with the play calling. We just go with it 100 percent and do our jobs."

Walton said the postgame locker room felt good for a change.

"It had been a while. I can't even remember the last time we won," he said, mentioning this was the top win of his college career. "We had real good practices this week. I had a feeling we were going to come out and give it our all."

The Rebels led 17-0 in the third period, but the Tigers roared back. However, Ole Miss never faded nor folded.

"Coach Freeze always says ‘Don't blink.' That's the game of football. That's the game of sports period," Walton said. "The game changes every possession. We just had to keep our heads up and not blink."

Walton said the Rebel defense, so decimated by injury and with youth abounding in the veterans' spots, did its job and more.

"It was amazing. I was hoping for the best. They actually shocked me," he said.

Just like the whole team did all of college football on this night.

Winning To Recruit

Freeze said winning a game like this means a lot of things to a program and its followers. But there is one aspect that he thinks about more than any other.

"My immediate thought always goes to recruiting," he said. "There's some really big recruits in that locker room, and we had some really good ones here last weekend, that see we're really close and we could use a little help. Because we're not where we need to be depth-wise at certain spots. So my mind always goes to that."

Freeze said he thinks differently than some might, think in these type situations.

"My mind does not go to where the media would like for it go to and say we took eight steps forward tonight," Freeze said. "This conference, as I've said all along to the people who would listen to me, you have to be guarded in your expectations in year two with some of the issues we still have. But we are going to compete and we're going to have a chance to win.

"We didn't make plays the other night (against Texas A&M) to win it at the end. Tonight we did. No question this helps us in recruiting, which will help us ultmately get where we all want to go."


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