Missed opportunities in the first half and depth issues in the final two periods doomed Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1) as Vanderbilt (2-1, 1-1) used a balanced offensive attack to knock off the Rebels 31-17.
Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson torched Ole Miss for 200 yards with his arm and 57 yards with his feet as the junior directed three fourth quarter scoring drives to finalize the outcome.
The Vandy offensive front wore down the thin Rebel defense and finished with 183 yards rushing led by Cassen Jackson-Garrison, who totaled 112 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. All-America candidate Earl Bennett completed the balanced effort with 100 yards receiving after 11 catches.
"We're going to have to change," Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron said. "We're going to have to get better. We were not a very good team tonight."
Ole Miss put together two solid drives on its first couple possessions but only picked up a combined three points in the process. Past those series, BenJarvus Green-Ellis struggled to find running room and was held to 66 yards on 22 totes for the night.
The two Ole Miss touchdowns were on long pass plays to Rebel deep threat Mike Wallace. The first came from Seth Adams to cut the Vanderbilt lead to four in the third quarter with a 36-yard TD toss, and the second bomb, while it wasn't a surprise, the quarterback who tossed it was.
Adams injured his shoulder early in the fourth quarter and took himself out of action. 2006 starter Brent Schaeffer replaced him and uncorked a 54-yard touchdown pass to Wallace on his first play of the season. Unfortunately, that would be the only pass Schaeffer would complete. The touchdown was set up after a fake punt was executed to keep the drive alive. Punter Justin Sparks faked a bad snap and Jamarca Sanford took the ball up the middle.
Wallace finished with his second straight 100-yard day after hauling in four balls for 139 yards.
Ole Miss' offense took the field twice more with Schaeffer at the controls, but the Rebels netted minus-24 yards of offense on those drives. Adams finished 10-for-17 for 157 yards and the one score.
Vanderbilt took control offensively with a 55-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown on the game's opening possession capped off with a three-yard scamper by Nickson.
The Rebels took the ensuing kickoff and marched eight plays for what appeared to be the start of a shootout, but Ole Miss stalled in the red zone and settled for a 37-yard field goal by Josh Shene.
Following the answer, Ole Miss forced a three and out and put together its best possession of the night. The Rebels covered 67 yards in 12 plays, but again a stall occurred deep in Commodore territory. Adams was sacked before Shene badly missed a 30-yard attempt.
With the momentum turned toward Vanderbilt, Nickson moved the ‘Dores 80 yards and secured a two-score advantage with an eight-yard run by Jackson-Garrison.
The two long throws from the Ole Miss quarterbacks each cut the Vanderbilt advantage to one score, but the combination of Nickson and Jackson-Garrison was too much to overcome.
Trailing 24-17 with 3:41 remaining, Ole Miss pulled off a goal line stop and Bry Hahnfeldt pulled a 23-yard field goal that would have put the game away. The Rebels took over, but the Commodore defense pinned their ears back and collapsed the pocket on Schaeffer. After failing on fourth down, Vandy added the exclamation point and the final totals.
"It was a good win for us," Vandy head coach Bobby Johnson said. "I am excited for our team and coaches. It felt god to battle a good Ole Miss team. We really took charge in the fourth quarter."
Defensively, the Commdores sacked the Ole Miss quarterbacks five times (Adams four times) and picked off Adams as well.
Dustin Mouzon surrendered yards to Bennett, but also led the Rebels with 10 tackles and a sack. Jamarca Sanford also notched ten tackles.
Total Yardage: Vandy 383 – Ole Miss 262
Time of possession: Vandy 34:50 – Ole Miss 25:10
'Dores do the Slammin'
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