Two winless teams in the Southeastern Conference met at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon and it showed.
But not until Mico McSwain rolled off a 40-yard run from his own 13-yard line to the Kentucky 47 after a handoff from Micheal Spurlock with just over two minutes to go in the game did the Rebels appear to all but put this one away. Kentucky never got the football back as Ole Miss was able to run out the clock with one more first down and a couple of knees by Spurlock for a 13-7 victory.
"We competed and I'm proud of my team for winning," said Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron. "It's good to have our first win in the SEC. Obviously this is a tough conference and I'm happy we won today. We played well on defense and made some plays on special teams. But we still need to make an improvement on offense. We still haven't come along as we should."
Ole Miss, which travels to Auburn next Saturday, is now 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in SEC play. Kentucky is 2-4 and 0-3 and hosts Mississippi State next Saturday.
With 104 rushing yards on 24 carries, McSwain broke the freshman rushing record of Joe Gunn. The Richton native now has 565 rushing yards on the season.
The Wildcats won the opening coin toss but deferred to the second half. The Rebels moved the football on their opening drive from their 20 to the UK 21 before stalling. A Robert Bass field goal attempt of 39 yards was blocked.
The teams simply exchanged punts the rest of the first quarter and into the second. Not until a Matt Hinkle field goal of 27 yards missed wide right with 8:50 to go in the half did either team threaten. The Rebels had gotten the ball a the UK 30 after Rob Park had bottled the Wildcats up with a punt to the 1-yard line, and UK couldn't move it past the 4 in three plays.
The Rebels then got their lone touchdown of the contest on a Spurlock pass to Mike Espy on a short two-play drive which began at the Kentucky 42-yard line. Spurlock had connected with Taye Biddle on a pass, Biddle fumbled when hit, but the football was recovered by Antonio Turner for the Rebels at the UK 9. On the very next play Espy caught the football, was hit near the goalline and reached the footballl across the plane for six. Matt Hinkle was good on the point after, and the home team led 7-0 with 3:32 to go before halftime.
But there was a lot of action to come before intermission in this one. After UK punted back to the Rebels on their next possession, Ole Miss went for it on fourth and 2 at the UK 35. But Spurlock's pass was incomplete and Kentucky took over. But after a holding call UK coughed up the football to the Rebels as Kelvin Robinson forced a fumble of Rafeal Little and also recovered it at the UK 27. Only 14 seconds remained and after an incomplete pass, Hinkle came on and connected from 45 yards out for a 10-0 UM lead with five seconds to go.
On the kickoff, Will Moseley's squibber up the middle bounced off Alexis Bwenge's foot and the football was recovered by Ole Miss at the UK 29. With three seconds to go, Hinkle was called on again but missed from 47 yards as his kick hit the right upright.
After a scoreless third quarter that saw yet another Ole Miss field goal blocked - a Hinkle 44-yard attempt - the Rebels added to their 10-0 lead in the fourth. A drive that started at their own 30 after a UK field goal miss stalled at the Wildcat 1-yard line with fourth down. The Rebel coaches decided to kick the field goal, and Hinkle was good from 18 as the Rebs led 13-0 with 5:04 to go in the contest.
The Wildcats immediately went to work for their only points of the game. Starting at their own 30, the Cats moved 70 yards in 11 plays, capped by an Arliss Beach 4-yard run for the score. Begley was good and the gap was narrowed to six points at the 2:36 mark.
That's when the Rebels got the football back at their own 13 following the UK kickoff. After a three-yard Mike Espy return from the 10, and McSwain ripped off the important 40-yard run to give his team some breathing room.
"We're getting better but we're going to have to play the run very well next week (against Auburn)," he said. "We're going to have to get better on third down and in the two-minute drill. We're getting better up front, and we're learning the defense. The key to our defense is we're not getting beat deep. I think we have the chance to be a tremendous defense, but we know we are going to be tested in the upcoming weeks."
Rebs get past UK for first SEC win
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