At first the season-low total attendance of 51,281 was shocking. However, as the game progressed, another thought surfaced.
Maybe those 9,000 absent knew something everyone inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium didnt.
Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1) coughed sputtered and lethargically suffered through a mostly frustrating 60 minutes of offensive football, as Vanderbilt (4-0, 2-0) capitalized off the Rebels' ineptness and stayed undefeated with a 23-17 victory.
"That was a tough loss to swallow right there because of the mistakes and missed opportunities," Houston Nutt said.
Already receiving the most votes of teams unranked by the Associated Press, Vandy will assuredly be ranked Sunday for the first time since starting 4-0 and sitting at 19th for one week in 1984
The Rebels have now lost nine straight SEC outings.
The Ole Miss offense had been the undisputed bright spot through three weeks, but Saturday, it produced only three points – the lowest-scoring unit since both the defense and special teams reached the end zone.
"We were ready to play on defense. I thought they were outstanding most of the night, had their best game of the year."
All 17 Rebel points came within the first 11 minutes of the contest. From that point on, a folly of six turnovers, along with numerous penalties and miscues presented difficult situations that were too much to overcome.
Quarterback Jevan Snead underwent a dismal day as the highly touted sophomore completed 12-of-25 passes for 184 yards. Snead also tossed four interceptions, a number that ties the school record.
Ole Miss converted just one red zone possession out of three and was flagged for 82 yards on seven penalties.
Vanderbilt scored 16 unanswered points after the Rebels took a 17-7 lead on a Mike Wallace kick return for a touchdown with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter. Wallace set a school record for kickoff return yards with 202 on the night. The total is fourth in SEC history.
VU running back Jared Hawkins caught a nine-yard score from Chris Nickson three minutes later, and Commdore kicker Brian Hahnfeldt drilled a 34-yard field goal on the last meaningful drive of the first half to tie the game at 17 at the half.
Past that point, Hahnfeldt stayed perfect on the season with two more makes of 31 and 40 yards to provide the winning margin.
Ole Miss' best shot in the second half came with 2:40 remaining in regulation. The Rebels had a first-and-goal from the seven-yard line when Dexter McCluster kept the football out of the Wild Rebel and lunged toward the goal line. But just before his knee touched at the one, the ball was stripped, and Vanderbilt recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
The situation was set up by a Snead pass to McCluster that spanned 56 yards. McCluster finished with 132 yards on seven catches.
On the opening series of the second half, Ole Miss moved from its own 21 to the Vanderbilt one-yard line in 10 play. But on third down, Cordera Eason was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
And on fourth down, Eason again took the handoff and attempted to dive over the top of the line. But he started way too soon and fell noticeably short of the goal.
"No matter what negativity comes your way, you have to keep your head up," McCluster said. "It's going to be big when the good times come. You just have to stay focused."
Despite the trouble close to the line, Eason totaled a career high 88 yards on 12 carries.
Ole Miss' first 10 points happened in a 16-second span, with Josh Shene hitting a 20-yard field goal on an impressive opening drive. But even it was marred with penalties. A kickoff and a play later, a Vanderbilt fumble was picked up by Peria Jerry, who rumbled 13 yards for the score.
The Commodores struck right back with a 79-yard touchdown return on Snead's first interception of the day.
Shene missed a 48-yard effort in the second half that would have tied the game at 20.
Kendrick Lewis led the Rebels with nine tackles, while Jamarca Sanford finished with seven.
Greg Hardy returned from injury on a limited basis but produced a drive-ending sack and and two tackles.
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