LSU pounds away for 27-24 win

The Ole Miss Rebels went to Baton Rouge to try to bury the embarrassment of the Arkansas game and salvage some pride for the disappointing season. But in the end, they could not pull out the upset over the 14th-ranked Tigers on their home turf as Alley Broussard rushed for 250 yards and the Reb offense sputtered in the second half.

BATON ROUGE, La. - For a long time it appeared the Ole Miss Rebels were headed for an upset, but Tiger RB Alley Broussard and LSU's vaunted defense put the cuffs on that dream in the fourth quarter as 14th-ranked LSU - now 8-2 on the season - smothered the Rebs late in the contest and pulled out a 27-24 victory.

"We put it all on the line, but in the end we didn't make enough plays. My hat is off to LSU - when they turned it up, we couldn't turn it up with them," said QB Robert Lane, who led Ole Miss to a 24-20 advantage at the end of three quarters. "We came down here to win and gave a good accounting of ourselves, but in the end we just didn't have any answers for them."

"Them" could be honed down to Broussard, who ran over and through the Rebels all night, finally wearing the visitors down, and a second-half smothering defense.

"We found a couple of plays that were working on the edges and we just kept going to them," said Broussard, who averaged 9.6 yards on 26 carries and set a school rushing record with his output. "Ole Miss never gave in, but we were able to get some things going they had no answers for. They were ready to play, but it was my night tonight."

On the other side of the ball, LSU realized the Rebs were struggling throwing the ball. They diverted more attention to stopping the run in the second half - cutting off the stretch play that had worked for Ole Miss before intermission - and the ploy worked.

"We didn't do a good job with their second-half pressure. Once they shut down some things we were doing in the first half that were successful, we had a hard time finding anything that would help us sustain drives," said Reb Offensive Coordinator John Latina. "We were concerned with their second-level pressure going into the game, but they got a lot of pressure from their defensive line too. I give them credit - their adjustments worked and ours weren't as successful, obviously."

The combination of the relentless LSU rushing game and the Rebs' inability to muster much offense after the halftime break was the undoing to what was almost a major upset.

"We had it right there in our hands, but in the end we couldn't finish the game," said CB Trumaine McBride, who gave the Rebs their first lead early in the fourth-quarter with a 48-yard interception return for a score and a 24-17 Rebel margin. "We got the lead, but couldn't hold it. We thought we had it, but you have to finish games in this league. There are four quarters, not three."

The game had a chilling start for the Rebel faithful who showed up for the game. The Tigers took the opening kickoff and drove 74 yards on eight plays. As an omen of things to come, Broussard ripped off a 40-yarder in the march. 7-0 with 11:35 left on the first-quarter clock.

The Rebs came right back with a pretty good drive of their own. Directed by Lane, Ole Miss' first offensive attempt went from their own eight to the LSU 31 before stalling. PK Jonathan Nichols nailed a 49-yard field goal at the 7:59 mark to cut the score to 7-3. It was the first of three Nichols field goals on the night.

"I like kicking here. I like the turf and the setting for some reason," said Nichols. "I was hitting the ball solidly and felt good when my chances came."

After swapping punts, LSU gained field position and took over at the Ole Miss 45. Again Broussard struck for 20 yards setting up the second LSU score. Broussard scored from one yard out on the last play of the first quarter and LSU held a 14-3 lead.

After last week's game at Fayetteville, conventional wisdom was that something good had to happen to the Rebs early or it could be more of the same type of spanking Arkansas applied a week prior. So much for conventional wisdom. Down 14-3, the Rebels came roaring back in the second frame, virtually owning the Tigers.

Larry Kendrick ignited the Rebs with a 65-yard return on the following kickoff and TB Vashon Pearson went 16 yards to the LSU 11. The drive stalled there, but Nichols' 28-yard field goal pumped new life into the downtrodden Rebs.

On LSU's next possession, Ole Miss forced a punt and took possession at their 12. Facing a fourth-and three at their 36, P Cody Ridgeway saw an open field and went 22 yards on the fake punt. Pearson promptly ripped off 37 yards and Lane capped off the 88-yard drive with a 5-yard run on a QB draw. Nichols' extra point made it 14-13 with 7:10 to play in the half and the Rebs were as energized as they have been all year on the sidelines.

LSU answered with a 51-yard field goal by Chris Jackson with 1:07 in the half to take a 17-13 lead, but the Rebs - led by QB Ethan Flatt - quickly drove to the LSU five, thanks to a 32-yard catch by WR Kerry Johnson and two shorts completions to WR Bill Flowers. To the dismay of the LSU fans, the Rebs got a 22-yard field goal off as the buzzer sounded.

The booing crowd did not understand the refs putting precious seconds back on the clock twice, but from our viewpoint the refs were correct. (Think 1972, only this time in reverse, with the clock running after the whistle rather than it stopping before the whistle.)

When all the dust settled, the Rebs trailed at halftime 17-16 and the Ole Miss faithful were clamoring for more as their team headed to the locker room.

They got more.

Early in the third quarter, LSU QB Jamarcus Russell - who had as hard a time throwing as the Rebel QBs did - threw a screen in the direction of CB McBride, who read it perfectly, picked off the pass, gained momentum from a couple of blocks and coasted in the end zone, gazing back over his shoulder in disbelief on his way in 48 yards later.

"We had seen that play in practice and I just jumped the route. I knew it was coming. I dropped an interception last week and wasn't about to drop another one," McBride said.

The Rebs, up 22-17, opted to go for two. No problem. Lane swept left, cut back when he saw an opening and bulled into the end zone. 24-17 Rebs with 11:15 to go in the third quarter.

LSU was shook, but did not panic. Neither team could get much going until late in the third stanza, when Broussard busted a 58-yard run to dig LSU out of a hole and set up a 42-yard field goal with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. 24-20, Rebs.

On LSU's first possession of the fourth quarter, Broussard and Joseph Addai started picking up yardage in chunks, but ironically it was not the rushing game that finally snapped the Rebs. It was a flag.

From the Ole Miss 36, Russell threw deep to a streaking receiver. It appeared Rebel CB Travis Johnson had broken up the pass near the end zone, but the refs called him for interference, much to the disbelief of the booing Rebel throng. From there, Broussard and Addai pounded the Rebs for the go-ahead score. Broussard got his third TD of the game from seven yards out.

At 27-24 with 10:51 to go, there was still plenty of football to play, but the Rebel offense could not muster anything and stayed on their end of the field the rest of the way.

"They sent people from every direction, knowing we had to throw late in the game. We did not slow them down - they smothered us," Latina said.

When the clock ticked down, the Rebels in attendance gave the Ole Miss players a standing ovation for their efforts - deservedly, but in the coaches and players' minds, it was just another disappointing loss.

"We didn't come down here to play close," said Lane. "We came to win. This was an exciting game, a fun game to play in, but it's still a loss and losses are not acceptable. We showed pride and character tonight, but that should be a given. We're here to win."

LSU moved to 8-2 on the season while Ole Miss dropped to 3-7. The Tigers gained 441 total yards to the Rebs' 254. LSU pounded out 360 yards on the ground.

It's hard to overcome those numbers, but Ole Miss almost did.

Unfortunately, it was another almost night in an almost kind of year.

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