KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee scored two quick first quarter touchdowns and Ole Miss had to play catchup from that point on at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. But the Rebels played arguably their best overall game of the season, even though they lost to Tennessee 27-10 to fall to 1-3 on the season and 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play. UT is now 3-1 and 2-1.
"It was very good to come here today and play a team like Tennessee," said Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron. "This is what we needed to see where we're at talent-wise, scheme-wise, and competitive-wise. I was really pleased with the way the defense played for the most part. I wanted to see improvement in the kicking game, and we saw that and on defense. We've still got a ways to go on offense."
"I was really proud of our team getting two Southeastern Conference wins in a week," said UT head coach Phillip Fulmer. "I don't know if that's ever been done before. I thought our kids hung in there and showed a lot of toughness and character. We're really glad to get this one behind us and win it and get on to a much bigger game with Georgia."
After the Rebels netted three yards in three plays from their own 20 after the opening touchback and then punted to the Volunteers, Will Moseley punted to the Tennessee 44. The Vols wasted no time in getting points, moving 56 yards in seven plays, capped by a Gerald Riggs run of two yards as he bounced off a pile of Rebel defenders to the left side of the line and ran it in for six points. The extra point by James Wilhoit gave UT a 7-0 lead with 10:24 to go in the first quarter.
Tennessee would get more points quickly. The Rebs again started at their own 20 following another touchback. On second and 20 from the 10 following a holding call, Micheal Spurlock passed down the right sideline intending it for Mike Espy. But the football was intercepted by Vol Jonathan Wade who raced 19 yards for a touchdown. The point after by Wilhoit made it 14-0 UT with 9:46 to go in the first period.
Ole Miss answered with three points on its next drive. Taye Biddle took the football four yards deep in the end zone and this time ran it out to the 15. Behind the running of Mico McSwain and the arm of Spurlock, the Rebels moved to the UT 33 before stalling. Moseley connected on a 50-yard field goal with 5:09 left in the first to cut the Vol advantage to 14-3.
On its next possession, Tennessee drove from its 20 but was stopped deep in Rebel territory. Wilhoit was called on and missed on a field goal attempt of 44 yards.
After the Rebels netted one yard in three plays and punted back to UT, the home team drove from its own 46 to the Rebel 9 before stalling on fourth and goal. Wilhoit was true on a 25-yard field goal for a 17-3 Volunteer lead with 9:33 to go before halftime.
After another touchback, the Rebels moved from their own 20 to the Tennessee 42 where on fourth and 2 Jason Cook was stopped by the UT defenders for a yard loss. Tennessee took over and moved to the Rebel 34. But Wilhoit''s 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jayme Mitchell with 2:25 to go in the second period. The 17-3 UT lead held up at halftime.
Intermission statistics leaned heavily in the Vols' favor. UT had 208 total yards to 93 for Ole Miss. First downs were 11 to 5 in the Vols' favor.
In the third period, Tennessee got points on its second possession with a 23-yard field goal from Wilhoit. The Vols had first and goal at the 8, but the Rebel defense, led in this series by Garry Pack, Kelvin Robinson, and Mitchell, stood tall and allowed UT only three points with 5:32 to go in the third. Tennessee took a 20-3 lead into the final stanza.
After the Rebel defense stopped the Vols on fourth and one as Jamarca Sanford tackled Arian Foster for no gain at the UM 36 with 14:01 to go, Ole Miss put together its best drive of the season so far - an 11-play, 64-yard effort that took 3:43 off the clock and ended on a 2-yard pitch and run around left end from Spurlock to McSwain.
The drive also featured a nice scramble by Spurlock who completed a 23-yard pass to Espy to the Vol 45. Spurlock completed two passes to Biddle, one of them a 15-yard catch at the 2-yard line that set up McSwain's run two plays later.
The Ole Miss defense was called on again as the Rebels stopped a UT drive on fourth and 2 at the Ole Miss 21. Rick Clausen got a yard as Nate Banks clogged things up on the 15th play of the drive, and UM took over at the 20. But on first down, Spurlock fumbled and UT recovered at the 14. Five plays later Foster took it in from the 1-yard line. Wilhoit was good and UT led 27-10 with 2:08 left.
Ole Miss started its final drive of the day at 4-yard line and almost went the distance. A 56-yard rush by McSwain got things started for the Rebels on first down to the UT 40. Nine plays later on second and goal at the UT 1-yard, Spurlock was intercepted by Corey Campbell in the end zone to end the Rebel threat.
Orgeron said even though the Rebels fell behind early, he thought they were ready to handle any adversity that came along.
"I felt today that our team was ready to compete no matter what happened - and it happened," he said of the early UT success. "I was really pleased with the way the coaches kept our team together. They battled today."
Spurlock ended the day 18 of 37 for 200 yards and two interceptions. The Rebels also had three fumbles, losing one. UT had no turnovers.
The Vols outgained the Rebs 378 yards to 250. UT had 23 first downs to 15 for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss hosts The Citadel at 1 p.m. Saturday for Homecoming. Tennessee hosts Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Tennessee tops Ole Miss 27-10
OM Spirit Top Stories
No Sense of Giving UpOle Miss tight end Evan Engram says the Rebels aren't "down or out" after suffering a 38-21 loss to LSU last Saturday.
OM Spirit5:51 PM
Rebels RegroupingFrom watching about 30 minutes of Tuesday's practice, one would be hard-pressed to detect the Rebs have lost two games in a row and are below .500 for the year at 3-4. It was…
OM Spirit3:35 PM
Which SEC School will Labryan Ray Select?Labryan Ray has come to the conclusion that he will play in the Southeastern Conference, but for which school? The No. 9 defensive end in the country discusses his recruitment here…
Scout Football11:21 AM
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout Football5:40 AM