Rebels come up just short against Gators

Ole Miss gave No. 3 Florida a major scare, but the Rebels couldn't quite pull off an upset that would have had the country talking for at least a week, and likely all season.

The Gators, who won 30-24, actually weren't secure in victory until a fake punt by the Rebs on fourth down, a pass from punter Justin Sparks to tight end Robert Lane, gained eight yards but came up three yards short of a drive-continuing first down at the UM 41.

The clock showed 3:01 in the fourth, and the Florida offense was able to get rid of the rest of that time.

Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2 SEC) had clawed its way back from a 27-9 third-quarter deficit to make a game of it and have a chance to win it. The Rebels cut the UF lead to 27-16 with 2:47 to go in the third period on a Seth Adams to Shay Hodge touchdown pass play of 19 yards. The drive had begun at the UM 41 and took only four plays to cover the remaining 59 yards. Joshua Shene made the extra point, and there was some life left in the home team before 55,032.

After Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC) couldn't move it out of its own territory following the UM kickoff, a Chas Henry punt was downed at the Rebels' 4-yard line. After Bruce Hall rushed for 19, Adams hit Mike Wallace on a deep ball down the home sideline for a 77-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds to go in the third quarter. The Rebs then converted on a two-point play from Adams to Marshay Green.

The third period came to a close with the Gators clinging to a 27-24 advantage and the Rebels and their fans seizing the momentum and sensing this one could be won.

On its next possession, Florida had to punt, then Adams threw an interception to give the ball back to the visitors. The Gators got a field goal of 25 yards from Joey Ijjas to make it 30-24 as the Rebel defense stood tall against a Florida offense that on this day would mount up 507 yards.

The Rebels got the ball back following the kickoff with 4:59 to go but couldn't move it goalward. A false start penalty on first down at the UM 34 signaled more of what was to come on this last effort toward victory.

Adams to Lane for seven yards to the 36. Adams to Marshay Green for two yards to the 38.

False start Ole Miss back to the 33, now third and 11. Then Adams incomplete to Green.

On fourth down, the Rebels lined up to punt it away with 3:09 to go. But the Gators called timeout.

Were the Rebels going to fake it before the timeout? Did that decision come during the timeout?

"It was a check read at the line of scrimmage," said Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron. "It was geared to fake the punt or punt it, depending on what defense they were in. We had them outnumbered but just didn't make the play."

And when it didn't work out, when Lane couldn't get 11 yards instead of just eight, this one was all but over.

"First of all, I want to start off with the respect I have for Ole Miss," said Florida Coach Urban Meyer. "This atmosphere, this is the first time I've ever been here. It's a beautiful place. They are a well-coached football team, especially on special teams. They played very well against us on defense. They forced us to show immaturity and make some mistakes. They played hard. I admire the way they do things. It was a tough win."

The Rebels netted 390 yards - 310 passing, 80 rushing. Of Florida's 507 yards, the Gators rushed for 246 yards, passed for 261.

Florida had the advantage in the first down department with 28 to the Rebs' 18.

Ole Miss turned it over just once on the day, and Florida none. But penalties ruled. UF was flagged 14 times for 127 yards, while UM drew 10 flags for 70 yards.

"I was happy with our offensive performance," said Adams, 18-of-31 on the day for 302 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. "Obviously we need to get it in the end zone. We can't keep kicking all those field goals. We had some miscues but we played our butts off. We just came up short."

The Rebels got on the scoreboard first with a 40-yard field goal by Shene at the 5:02 mark of the first quarter. The kick capped a nine-play, 37-yard scoring effort which began after a Florida punt. Rebel returner Marshay Green was interfered with on the attempted catch, and the 15-yard penalty put the ball at the Rebel 41.

The first quarter ended with Florida driving. The Gators capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive on the first play of the second period when Tim Tebow passed to Percy Hardin for 19 yards and a touchdown. The extra point by Ijjas was good, and the visitors from Gainesville were on top 7-3 with 14:52 to go in the first half.

After the Florida kickoff, Ole Miss came right back to cut the lead to 7-6 when Shene was good on a 32-yard field goal with 11:57 to go in the second quarter. The drive covered 38 yards in eight plays.

Florida went up 14-6 on a 9-yard run by Tebow with 7:08 to go before halftime. Ijjas converted and the Gators had gone 98 yards in 14 plays to take control of the game.

The drive had started when Florida's Brandon James mishandled the football on the return and fell on it at his own 2-yard line. But the Gators were impressive over the next 4:49 in moving basically the length of Hollingsworth Field for a touchdown.

The Rebels then headed back downfield to try for more points of their own. On fourth and 16 from the Florida 30, Shene was just short this time, his third field goal try of the day.

Florida appeared to be in position to put the game away in the third quarter. That's when it moved out to a 27-9 advantage. But that's also about the time the Rebels got back in it.

They'd fall just shy of a major victory for a program searching for one.

Next up? Between the hedges in Athens, Ga. on Saturday.

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