Rebel comeback falls short in Nashville

Ole Miss spotted Vanderbilt a 24-3 lead before almost coming all the way back as the Commodores won 31-23.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It wasn't the kind of outcome Ole Miss fans had hoped for in the team's 2005 conference opener against Vanderbilt. The Rebels fell behind the Commodores 24-3 early in the third quarter, then almost came all the way back. But after the Rebels cut the VU lead to 24-23 (with a missed UM extra point being the difference), the Commodores - led by first-team preseason All-SEC quarterback Jay Cutler - drove down the field and expanded the lead with a touchdown to 31-23, which was the final score.

A last-ditch effort for the Rebels ended in disappointment when backup quarterback Robert Lane, in for the injured Micheal Spurlock, was sacked and fumbled with one second remaining on the clock. That sealed the victory for the Commodores, whose last win against Ole Miss came in 1999 against then-first-year Rebel head coach David Cutcliffe. It was Vandy's first win over Ole Miss in Nashville since 1992, which ended up being a 9-win season for the Rebs.

"It was a disappointing loss for us," Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said, whose team fell to 1-1 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. "Anytime you give up 523 yards and all those points, it's going to be hard to win a football game. At the end, I thought we made some big plays, but we still weren't consistent enough on offense to beat a team who scored 31 points. We just didn't come out and play the way I thought we would in the first half."

The Rebels jumped out on Vanderbilt just like they did Memphis in game one, and the results were much the same early. Ole Miss drove 70 yards in 12 plays after Vandy deferred and the Rebels got the football on the opening kickoff. But the drive stalled at the Vandy 12, and Will Moseley connected on a 30-yard field goal to give UM a 3-0 lead with 9:52 to go in the first. Vandy had yet to touch the football.

The Commodores, 3-0 overall for the first time since 1984 and 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1956, couldn't move it and punted back to the Rebs who got the football in great field position at the Vandy 46. But the Rebels only managed to penetrate to the 29 before Moseley was called on for a 47-yard field goal which was wide right. There was 6:41 left on the first-quarter clock.

The Commodores would tie it up at 3-3 on their next drive. After the Vandy drive stalled at the UM 20, Vandy's Bryant Hahnfeldt was good on a 37-yard field goal with 2:55 to go in the first.

Ole Miss couldn't move it and Vandy got the ball back at its own 37 after a Moseley punt of 31 yards. In six plays the Commodores went 63 yards, all on the ground save a 14-yard pass on the drive's first play. Jeff Jennings took it in from three yards out. Hahnfeldt was good on the point after, and VU led 10-3 with 12:43 to go in the second period.

Ole Miss couldn't move it again, and after Moseley punted it 45 yards, the Commodores started on their own 20. In eight plays the 'Dores were in the end zone when Jennings took it in from the 4-yard line. Hahnfeldt was good on the extra point, and it was 17-3 Vandy with 6:17 left before halftime. That's the way things stood at intermission.

The Commodores got the football to start the second half and immediately picked up where they left off. A methodical, 11-play, 73 yard yard drive gave Vandy a three-touchdown lead. Cassen Garrison capped the drive with a seven-yard run at the 11:07 mark of the third. Hahnfeldt was good on the PAT for a 24-3 VU lead.

The Rebels got their first touchdown of the game and their second of the young season next. Mico McSwain returned the kickoff from the goalline to the Rebel 36-yard line. Five plays later Micheal Spurlock hit Mario Hill on a short pass, and Hill outraced the Commodore defenders for a 28-yard touchdown run. Moseley was good on the extra point, and the Rebs trailed 24-10 with 8:50 left in the third.

Vandy started the ensuing drive at its own 23 but netted only four yards in six plays. The Rebels got the football at their own 46, and on first and nine (after a completion of 11 yards from Spurlock to Taye Biddle and then an illegal block penalty againt UM), Mico McSwain scored on a magnificent run of 53 yards. First starting toward the near sideline, McSwain appeared hemmed up by gold-shirted Commodores. He reversed his field, ran across the field, then turned it up on a touchdown run for the highlights film. Moseley was good on the extra point, and the Rebels had trimmed the Vandy lead to 24-17 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

A normal Vandy-Ole Miss wild and heart-stopping finish remained in this one. On Vandy's first possession of the fourth, the Commodores punted to Ole Miss. Hahnfeldt punted from his own 15 to the Rebel 49. Mike Espy hauled it in and raced 51 yards for a touchdown. With the score 24-23, Moseley's extra point attempt was blocked by Commodore Ralph McKenzie. With 8:20 to go in the game, the race was on, although Vandy was breathing a sigh of relief at still being ahead after Ole Miss had scored 20 unanswered points.

Ole Miss returned the favor on a blocked kick after the Commodore offense moved to the Rebel 14 in six plays. Hahnfeldt tried a 31-yarder that was slapped down by Corvelli Haynes with 6:20 to go on the clock.

On second and 10 from the 22, Spurlock hit Espy on a 15 yard gain for a first down to the Rebel 37. But the play was reviewed and overturned. On third and 10 at the 22, Spurlock gained six yards, running out of bounds rather than turning it upfield, and the Rebels were forced to punt the football back to Vandy on fourth and four from the Reb 28.

The Commodores took the football at their own 36 after the punt and proceeded to take it in for more points. Jennings rushed from the 1-yard line for a touchdown with 1:26 to go. Hahnfeldt was good on the extra point and VU left 31-23.

On the Rebels' last effort to make a comeback, Spurlock was injured on a four-yard rush on second and 10 from the Ole Miss 47. It appears to be a hand injury, although the official prognosis is forthcoming. Robert Lane came in and got the Rebels to the Vandy 16. But on third and 5, Lane was sacked for a big loss and fumbled. Vandy's Moses Osemwegie recovered the ball at the 31. There was one second left in the game.

One other injury note. It appears Rebel LB Patrick Willis sustained a hand injury as well as a knee injury to go along with an already ailing shoulder.

OM Spirit Top Stories