Ole Miss falls to Tennessee 21-17

The tale of three quarterbacks continued for Ole Miss as the Rebels once again used the trio of sophomore Ethan Flatt, junior Micheal Spurlock, and redshirt freshman Robert Lane in an attempt to make something happen on offense.

Last week, the Rebs won at South Carolina 31-28 using the formula. This Saturday it almost worked again as Tennessee eeked out a 21-17 win before the second largest crowd ever in Oxford - 62,028 fans.

On the night Flatt, the starter, was 10-of-20 for 147 yards and two interceptions.

Spurlock, the starter at the beginning of the season in losses against Memphis and Alabama, was 2-of-3 for four yards.

Lane, who saw his first collegiate action last week, was 2-of-3 for 17 yards and completed his first college pass in the first quarter, a 13-yard reception by Mario Hill.

Flatt was credited with four rushes for minus-17 yards. Spurlock three rushes for 12 yards. Lane seven rushes for 44 yards.

"I want to commend our players," said Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe. "I thought they played with great energy and great effort and fought hard all night long. It was a tough loss, and we have to put it behind us."

The Vols jumped on top early after Ole Miss won the opening coin toss and deferred. Starting at their own 22-yard line, Tennessee methodically moved 78 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Gerald Riggs was the workhorse tailback for UT, but it was tailback Jabari Davis who scored from one yard out to give the visitors the lead. The extra point was good by James Wilhoit and it was 7-0 Tennessee with 11:42 to go in the first quarter.

On the Rebels' first drive, Ole Miss moved from its 20 to its own 45 when on third and 7, quarterback Ethan Flatt was intercepted by UT's Brandon Johnson at the Vol 45. Tennessee then moved 55 yards in eight plays for another touchdown

But it was a fourth and 7 fake punt at the Ole Miss 40 that kept the drive alive for the Vols. Punter Dustin Colquitt took the snap, and the Rebels only had 10 men on the field. So Colquitt spotted a wide open Chris Hannon near the sideline for 19 yards and a first down at the Rebel 21.

Then it was Riggs scoring on the very next play, a 21-yard run, first running left, getting stopped, then finding a hole and going the distance through a hole on the right side. Wilhoit connected on the point after, and it was 14-0 Vols with 6:11 to go in the opening period. Everything was going Tennessee's way early in this one.

Ole Miss placekicker Jonathan Nichols missed on a 30-yard field goal try early in the second quarter, but the Rebs closed the gap to 14-7 later in the second. The Rebels' lone score of the first half was the result of a fumbled punt by Tennessee returner Jonathan Hefney. Awaiting a punt at his own 24, Hefner overan the ball as it was just high and through his hands. Larry Kendrick recovered for the Rebels at the Vol 24.

Robert Lane came in to quarterback the Rebels and got 21 yards on a first down run, although it at first appeared he might have scored. In actuality, he stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line. Two plays later Brandon Jacobs took it in from the 1-yard line. Jonathan Nichols converted the point after, and the Rebs had made it 14-7 with 5:02 to go in the second period. That's the way the first half ended.

In the third quarter, the Rebels got closer to the Vols - three points closer actually. Nichols was good on a 42-yard field goal with 5:02 to go in the third. Neither team did much offensively in the quarter, although the Rebels outgained the Vols 103 to 18.

The fireworks of the fourth quarter put this one in the record books as a classic college football matchup. The Rebels got their first touchdown of the game off a turnover by Tennessee. They did the same thing on the second one.

Still leading by four points, Tennessee started a drive on its own 22 and had it third and 15 at its own 39 five plays later. But freshman quarterback Erik Ainge swung a pass in the left flat that was picked off by Rebel defensive back Bryan Brown on the run and returned 34 yards for a touchdown. Nichols connected and it was 17-14 Ole Miss with 11:01 to go in the game.

But Tennessee came right back to go ahead again. Starting at their own 17, the Volunteers drove 83 yards in nine plays with Ainge redeeming himself completing three of four passes, the last one a 30-yard diving catch by receiver Bret Smith. Wilhoit made it 21-17, and 6:58 remained in the contest.

The Rebels had to start at their own 6-yard line following the kickoff and could only get it up to the 17 before Cody Ridgeway punted. UT started at its 39 and moved to the Rebel 40 before punting into the end zone.

On first down from the 20, Flatt threw to midfield. Only white UT visiting jerseys were in the vacinity. Brandon Johnson intercepted it and was dropped at the UM 48. With no timeouts remaining for Ole Miss, the Vols simply ran out the clock.

Tennessee improved to 5-1 on the season and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss is now 3-4 and 2-2.

The Rebels have an open date next weekend and host Auburn Oct. 30.

For complete stats, go to olemisssports.com.

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