Ole Miss celebrated Homecoming 2005 with a 27-7 victory over an outmatched Citadel squad. But the win was not what most would call impressive before an announced 50,272 mostly Rebel fans.
The Rebels struggled to a 3-0 halftime lead before outscoring the visiting Division 1-AA Bulldogs 24-7 in half number two to move to 2-3 on the season. The Citadel is also 2-3 following the loss.
"We were really pleased with the way the team played in the second half," said Ole Miss first-year head coach Ed Orgeron. "We went in at halftime, made some adjustments on offense, and came out and moved the football. I'm pleased with the way the defense played the option. We shut them down pretty good and our guys worked really hard. We're starting to gel on defense and come together."
Early in the contest, the Citadel dominated the field position battle until a Micheal Spurlock to Mario Hill pass play of 27 yards got the Rebels into Bulldog territory for the first time at the 35-yard line with just over four minutes to go in the period. But four plays later on fourth and one from the 26, Will Moseley was called on for a 44-yard field goal which was good. The Rebels led 3-0 with 1:56 to go in the first quarter.
The Citadel had a chance to tie things up in the second quarter but missed on a 37-yard field goal by Blake Vandiver with 5:56 to go in the second period. The Bulldogs had moved from their own 31 to the Rebel 20 before stalling.
A close game appeared to turn on the very first play of the second half in the Rebels' favor. The visiting Bulldogs started the opening drive of the second half at their own 20 following a Will Moseley kickoff into the end zone for a touchback.
But on the first play, Bulldog quarterback Justin Knox was stripped of the football by Patrick Willis, and the ball was picked up by Travis Johnson who raced 16 yards for a touchdown. The extra point by Will Moseley was good, and Ole Miss had early second half momentum, leading 10-0 with only eight seconds gone off the third period clock.
But the visitors would answer with a defensive touchdown of their own to close the gap back to three points. After the Rebel defense held on three downs and a punt, Robert Lane made his first appearance as Rebel quarterback since the loss to Wyoming two weeks earlier. On second and eight from the Ole Miss 41-yard line, Lane's pass intended for Mike Espy was picked off by Bulldog Avery Dingle and returned 44 yards for a score. The extra point by Blake Vandiver cut the UM lead to 10-7 with 12:02 left in the third. It appeared this one was still anybody's ballgame at that point, but the Rebels' Division 1-A depth, numbers, and talent began to wear on the Bulldogs as the game wore on.
Ole Miss, which led in total offense 105 to 66 in the first half, outgained the Bulldogs 261 to 15 in the second half.
After the Citadel score made it 10-7, the Rebels moved 65 yards in nine plays for another touchdown. The touchdown came on a sneak by starting quarterback Micheal Spurlock with 6:55 to go in the third quarter. But the Citadel defense had stood tall the previous two plays, and the score came on third and 1 as the Rebs were stuffed up the middle on their first two tries. Robert Bass connected on the extra point to give Ole Miss a 17-7 lead.
The Rebels all but wrapped the victory in red and blue with another touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Mike Espy, capping a five-play, 72-yard drive that started at the Rebel 28 with the big plays a 32-yard pass from Spurlock to Keith Houston on first down and later a 17-yard run by Mico McSwain that made it first and 10 at the Citadel 18. The touchdown came at the 1:55 mark of the third period on first and goal following a McSwain run of nine yards to the 4-yard line.
Up 24-7, the Rebels stopped The Citadel on three plays and a punt and moved back downfield for more points. Ole Miss got it to the Bulldog 6-yard line but decided on a field goal attempt at fourth and 1. Bass connected on a 23-yard field goal to make it 27-7 Ole Miss with 9:01 to go.
The Rebs had a couple of other shots to score before this one was over. Following a Citadel punt, the Rebels were first and 10 at the Bulldog 27. After McSwain lost two yards, Spurlock passed to Larry Kendrick for a short gain. But Kendrick was stripped of the football by Bulldog Kendrick Lyles and it was recovered by Brandon Hawkins at the 23.
Ole Miss immediately got the football back when Travis Johnson intercepted a Knox pass and returned it to the Bulldog 11. Two Alan Abrams rushes later for four total yards and the clock ran out on this one, ending a three-game Ole Miss losing streak.
The Rebels host undefeated Alabama next Saturday in a televised contest.
"We have a bigtime opponent with Alabama coming in," Orgeron said. "And we're going to have to play very well."
Rebs beat The Citadel with strong second half
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