Rebs slip by Indians 28-21

Arkansas State stayed in today's football game at Ole Miss with big scoring plays, and it allowed the Indians to almost pull off the upset.

The Rebels won their homecoming contest 28-21 before 54,676 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field in Oxford, but a 55-yard run by Indian Antonio Warren early in the second quarter and a 59-yard pass play from quarterback Nick Noce to Jerome Stegall late in the fourth were big keys in the Indians' efforts to pull out what would have been one of the biggest wins in school history. But it wasn't quite enough.

"This is something to build on," said Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe. "It is always great to get a win. We were better in the second half. That is encouraging. We are playing this season one game at a time and trying to win that game. It is always better to prepare after a win than it is a loss."

The Rebels won the opening coin toss and deferred. Arkansas State moved from its own 20 to the Rebel 48 before the drive stalled. The Indians punted and Ole Miss started a drive at its own 5-yard line.

The Rebels ran the ball efficiently, mixed in a few passes late, including a 17-yarder from quarterback Ethan Flatt to fullback Rick Razzano to the ASU 13. But three plays later on fourth and 2 at the 5, placekicker Jonathan Nichols was called on for a 23-yard field goal which was good, the final play of an 11-play, 90-yard drive. With 8:16 to go in the first period, the Rebs led 3-0.

A couple of possessions later near the end of the first quarter, the Rebels got more points - another Nichols field goal. Following another ASU punt, the Rebels started at their own 44 after 15 yards were tacked on to end of a Mike Espy short return for a late Indian hit. Seven plays later after the Rebel drive stalled at the ASU 13, Nichols' 31-yarder was good for a 6-0 UM lead with 34 seconds to go before the end of the first period.

Early in the second quarter, Arkansas State put up points to go ahead. A 55-yard run straight up the gut untouched to the south end zone by Indian workhorse Warren tied the score. The drive was only three plays and took only 51 seconds. ASU placekicker Eric Neihouse connected on the point after, and the visitors led 7-6 with 14:43 to go in the second quarter.

Following the Indian kickoff, the Rebels moved from their own 27 in seven plays for their first touchdown of the contest. Flatt hit Mario Hill on first down for 19 yards to the 46, and the Rebs were in business. Six plays later Flatt hit Lorenzo Townsend for 11 yards and a touchdown. Nichols converted the kick and it was 13-7 Ole Miss with 11:51 to go before halftime.

But the Indians would answer. Starting at their own 20, Arkansas State moved 80 yards in eight plays, the scoring play a 26-yard rush on an option that Noce kept down the left sideline and basically raced untouched into the south end zone. Neihouse was good and the Indians were up 14-13 with 8:27 to go before the half. And that's the way the first half ended with the visitors up 14-13.

Ole Miss got a couple of scores in the second half - a touchdown in the third and a touchdown in the fourth - and needed both. Nichols missed a 47-yard field goal on Ole Miss' first drive, and the UM defense stepped up big on the Rebels' next possession. Actually, make that Rebel defensive end Jayme Mitchell.

The junior from Jackson picked off a Nick Noce pass near midfield and returned it to the Indian 18. Vashon Pearson, who finished the day with 129 yards on 24 carries, got four yards on first down, and a face mask penalty on ASU put the Rebs at the 9. Flatt then hit Townsend in the left flat for a touchdown. Nichols made it 20-14 with his extra point, and 7:04 remained in the third.

The Rebels had the football at the start of the fourth quarter after Patrick Willis recovered the ball following a high snap to Noce late in the third. The ball sailed high and through the hands of the Indian quarterback and Willis pounced on it at the Indian 20. On third and 6 from the ASU 16, Flatt hit wide receiver Matt Pierce for a first down at the 3-yard line. From there, Brandon Jacobs took it in on the next play to make it 26-14 Rebels.

Ole Miss chose to go for two points, and another Flatt to Pierce connection, this time in the back of the north end zone, made it 28-14 with 14:03 to go in the contest.

Later in the game, Flatt was intercepted by Indian Tyrell Johnson at midfield, and Johnson returned it 37 yards to the Ole Miss 12. But the UM defense stiffened, and Neihouse was called on for a 29-yard field goal which was blocked by Kelvin Robinson and recovered at the 17 by Trumaine McBride.

The Rebels failed to do much with it and Cody Ridgeway punted the Indians at their own 33. Two plays later on first and 10 from his own 46, Noce hit Jerome Stegall about the Rebel 30, and the Indian receiver took it the rest of the way down the far sideline for a touchdown. Neihouse made the extra point, and Ole Miss' lead was only 28-21 with 3:12 to go.

With three timeouts remaining, the Indians chose to kick deep. Ole Miss did manage to pick up one first down, but on third and one at the Rebel 34, Jacobs was stopped for no gain. Ridgeway punted 35 yards to the Indian 31, and James Johnson returned it nine yards to the 40. The Indians had 60 yards to go for a potential tie or win. Only 49 seconds remained, but with the quickstrike potential the Indians had shown on this day, they had a shot.

But four incompletions later, the Rebels had the ball. Flatt took a knee and time expired.

"We are very satisfied with the effort of our football team," said Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts. "It's very disappointing that we didn't concentrate the entire game. There were two or three times we had a lapse in concentration. I don't think our football team lost because of ability or heart. We lost because of a lack of focus, plus Ole Miss' ability to capitalize on the mistakes we made."

The Indians fell to 1-4, while the Rebels moved to 2-3 and prepare now for a Southeastern Conference road trip to South Carolina. The Rebels are 1-1 in SEC play.

The current series between the Indians and the Rebels is now over. The Citadel replaces ASU on next year's Ole Miss schedule for homecoming.

For complete statistics of today's game, go to

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