Evan Engram/USA Today Images

An ugly start doesn't derail Ole Miss from the 1-0 week it desperately needed

Ole Miss snapped a three-game losing streak with a 37-27 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday. Which five plays shaped the outcome? The Spirit takes a look.

Play One

Situation: First-and-10 from the Georgia Southern 32-yard line with 11:47 left in the second quarter.

Play: Ole Miss couldn't have opened the game any worse. In front of a sparse Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd, the Rebels went three-and-out on their first offensive series, and after a field goal, saw the Eagles reel off back-to-back touchdowns. If they hadn't found rock bottom before, they were starting at it now, but quarterback Chad Kelly and the offense went to work and began the turnaround. First came a seven-yard completion to wide receiver Van Jefferson, followed by an eight-yard run by Akeem Judd. Five plays later, Kelly found freshman wide receiver A.J. Brown for 29 yards to set up a three-yard Kelly rushing score. As head coach Hugh Freeze has probably realized by now, when in need of a pick-me-up for not only his team, but the fans, call a play for Brown. The play ignited what had been an uninspiring start, to the say the least, and opened things up for the Rebels later on in the quarter en route to their 10-point halftime lead.

Score: 14-10, Georgia Southern

Play Two

Situation: Second-and-6 from the Georgia Southern 37-yard line with just over nine minutes to go in the second quarter.

Play: Ole Miss has struggled defensively all season. Those struggles were only amplified as the Rebels dropped three-straight SEC games, including back-to-back ugly showings against LSU and Auburn, when each set of Tigers ran at will against an Ole Miss defense that entered Saturday giving up more rushing yards per game than even the 2010 season, when the Rebels were 2-10. The ugliness continued for a bit as Georgia Southern gashed Ole Miss time and again in the first half. The Eagles broke off a 68-yard touchdown run for a 21-10 lead, but Kelly and Co. responded again to right the ship once more. His 35-yard completion to Damore'ea Stringfellow was the shot in the arm Ole Miss needed, and Kelly followed three plays later with his second rushing touchdown of the day.

Score: 21-17, Georgia Southern

Play Three

Situation: Second-and-2 from the Georgia Southern 9-yard line with 3:36 to go in the second quarter.

Play: Ole Miss finally returned from the Upside Down (Stranger Things reference, I'm sorry) late in the second quarter. The Rebels used a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive for their first lead of the game, and they never trailed again. Judd capped the march with a nine-yard scoring burst, one of the his most efficient runs in weeks. A banged up offensive line missing three starters opened up a hole in the middle of the Eagle defense and Judd all burst through with no unnecessary movement for the decisive score. For a game that could have gone from ugly to disaster, Judd's run was the easy, deep breath the Rebels needed. The next drive would simply be the topper.

Score: 24-21, Ole Miss

Play Four

Situation: First-and-10 from the Georgia Southern 38-yard line with 2:06 to go in the second quarter.

Play: Ole Miss seized all momentum when Judd went in for six, but the Rebel defense did its part, too. They held Georgia Southern to a three-and-out to give the ball back to a red-hot Kelly who, in two plays, put the Rebels on the board with another touchdown. Tight end Evan Engram split two defenders up the right seam and Kelly found him for a 38-yard touchdown, with Engram finishing off the catch by running away from a hapless GSU defender. Lost in the noise of, let's be honest, a disappointing season for the Rebels, is the play of Engram  one of the most accomplished players in school history, and the best to ever do it at his position at Ole Miss. He led Ole Miss in receiving, as he has numerous times this season, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over. Yes, Georgia Southern kept putting pressure on Ole Miss, and it was tight at times. But a double-digit lead was all the cushion Ole Miss needed to finish off a win. Good thing, too, because Ole Miss lost Kelly for the second half. 

Score: 31-21, Ole Miss

Play Five

Situation: Fourth-and-1 at the Georgia Southern 31-yard line with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

Play: The box score won't show it, but a lot happened between Ole Miss and Georgia Southern in the second half. Kelly went down with a knee injury and was replaced by back-up Jason Pellerin. The Rebel defense held the Eagles to all of six points after GSU's 21-point outburst to start. Brown had a would-be impressive catch yanked out of his hands by a GSU defensive back. Derrick Jones dropped a would-be, walk-in pick-six. On and on and on, yet the box score didn't move much. All in all, the teams combined for 12 second-half points, so naturally the last meaningful play came as Ole Miss attempted to ice the game with an offensive march over the game's final three minutes. Pellerin, on fourth-and-1, kept on a read-option and rushed for four yards. Somewhat anti-climactic? Sure. But there's been too much drama this season, and Ole Miss gladly took the win.

Score: 37-27, Ole Miss


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