Rebs clip Vandy 26-23 in overtime

It took an extra period to get it done, but Ethan Flatt's debut as the starting quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels was a success.

The Nashville, Tenn., native led the Rebels to a 26-23 overtime win over his hometown Commodores Saturday afternoon before a sun-splashed, enthusiastic Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 55,824.

Flatt finished his starting debut with a stellar 21-of-32 performance for 187 yards. Previous starter Micheal Spurlock was only in for one series all day, that coming in the second quarter when the Rebels moved it a total of one yard in six plays, mainly due to a mishanlded snap by Spurlock in the shotgun which resulted in a loss of 19 yards.

Vanderbilt actually appeared to be in control of the game in the fourth quarter, leading 23-13. But after Ole Miss' Cody Ridgeway punted and the Commodores had the football at their own 23-yard line with 10:30 remaining in the contest, Vandy quarterback Jay Cutler unleashed on a pass of some 30 yards to midfield, intending it for wide receiver Brandon Smith, but getting it picked off by Rebel cornerback Trumaine McBride.

The tide may have turned at that point in the Rebs' favor as McBride set his team up with a return to the Commodore 39. Tack on a personal foul against Vandy for a late hit, and the Rebels were first down at the VU 24. Four plays later Lorenzo Townsend took it in from the 3-yard line. Jonathan Nichols made the extra point, and Ole Miss had closed the gap to 23-20 with 8:44 left.

Vandy quickly moved the football into Ole Miss territory and appeared poised for more points. But on fourth and 4 from the Rebel 30, Cutler kept around the right side and was stopped a yard short of a first down near the out of bounds line by Travis Johnson and Charles Clark.

Ole Miss took the football and drove downfield for more points. Flatt hit Mario Hill for a 6-yard gain across the middle at the Vandy 17 but a yard shy of a first down. Nichols came on for a 34-yard field goal that tied the score at 23-23 with 2:23 to go in the contest.

Ole Miss held Vandy on a three and out, and the Commodores punted to the Rebels' Mike Espy. The Rebel junior received the football at midfield and was immediately popped by a Commodore gunner who was called for a 15-yard interference penalty. With first down at the Commodore 35, the Rebels got three yards on a couple of Pearson rushes up the middle. Flatt spiked the ball with 12 seconds left, and Nichols came on for a 50-yarder that would have won it. But it was wide right.

Cutler took a knee, and we were headed for overtime.

The Commodores got the ball first after Ole Miss won the toss and deferred. On the north end of Hollingsworth Field, Cutler threw three straight incompletions as the Rebel defenders stepped up big - namely Eric Oliver on two breakups and Travis Johnson as well. On fourth and 15 - the 'Dores had a delay of game penalty prior to the third down snap in overtime - Cutler threw behind intended receiver Brandon Smith and Ole Miss had a shot.

The Rebels got six yards from Vashon Pearson on first down to the 19. After a handoff to Rick Razzano lost two yards, Pearson gained four to the 17 and Nichols was once again called on. Two for four on the day in the field goal department, this time he was perfect on a 35-yarder as the ball sailed into the north end zone bleachers.

The Rebels had victory No. 1 of the 2004 season to go along with two losses. In Southeastern Conference play, the Rebs are 1-1.

Vanderbilt headed back to Nashville with 0-2 overall and league record.

In the early-going, the Commodores got on the scoreboard first. Ole Miss won the opening toss and deferred. In nine plays Patrick Johnson kicked a 37-yard field goal when the drive stalled at the Rebel 19 as Brian Lester tackled Vandy quarterback Jay Cutler for a loss of four yards on third and six from the 15.

The Rebels answered with a field goal of their own soon after. When the first Ole Miss drive stalled, the Rebels' Cody Ridgeway punted from his own 10 to the Vanderbilt 47. But returner Dominique Morris fumbled the punt and it was recovered by Kelvin Robinson at the Commodore 37-yard line.

Six plays later on fourth and six at the Commodore 22, Nichols was good on a 37-yarder to knot things up with 7:26 to go in the first period.

After Vanderbilt failed to move it and punted to the Rebels, it was two plays for a score for Ole Miss as Pearson took a handoff on second and 5 and raced 54 yards for a touchdown. Nichols converted and it was 10-3 UM with 5:32 to go in the first.

Vandy came right back with a scoring drive of its on. An 80-yard drive ended with Cutler rushing for six yards and a touchdown as time expired in the opening period. Patrick Johnson kicked the extra point, and an exciting first quarter had ended 10-10.

After Ole Miss failed to put points up on its next possession, the Commodores did score on their next one. A 51-yard, four-play drive culminated in a 15-yard pass from Cutler to Erik Davis for six points. Vandy tried a quick two-point conversion to catch the Rebels off guard, but holder Steven Bright's attempted run for two points failed and Vandy led 16-10 with 9:26 to go before halftime. That's the way the first half ended.

In the third period, the Commodores built their lead to 23-10 after a Razzano fumble at the Rebel 27. On the sixth play of the possession, Matthew Tant took it in from three yards out. Patrick Johnson was good on the extra point, and Vandy led 23-10 with 7:20 to go in the third period.

Ole Miss answered with a Nichols field goal from 26 yards to make it 23-13 on its next possession when the drive of 58 yards stalled with 3:31 to go at the VU 8-yard line. That gave the Rebels a lift heading into the fourth-quarter rally.

Ole Miss heads to Wyoming next Saturday for a 2 p.m. (CT) game against the Cowboys in Laramie. For complete statistics of the Rebels and the Commodores today, here is the link:

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