Back in the 'W' column

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ole Miss was able to get past Vanderbilt 23-7 Saturday night with another strong defensive showing and another offensive display of mostly inconsistent proportions.

The first half, the Rebels were actually a bit of a more well-oiled offensive machine. But in the second half they reverted to more of the same this season, scoring just six points and sputtering often.

Ole Miss led 17-0 at halftime and victory was never really in doubt at any point. But the Rebels could never pull away and put a nail in the Commodores' coffin.

Vanderbilt (2-3 overall, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Rebels took the opening kickoff and moved in for points. After a 15-yard illegal block on the kickoff return gave Ole Miss had good field position at its own 42-yard line, Josh Shene kicked a 20-yard field goal 11 plays later after the drive stalled at the Commodore 3.

In possession of the football later, the Rebels opened up the second quarter with a 48-yard bomb from Jevan Snead to Shay Hodge to the Vandy 26 that set up the Rebels' next score. A Snead to Hodge 3-yard slant in the end zone, along with Shene's point after made, it 10-0 with 10:18 to go in the second period.

Hodge had more than 100 yards receiving by that point, the second time in his career to go over the century mark.

Vanderbilt moved downfield on its next possession, but a strong Rebel defensive effort thwarted no more than a field goal. With first down at the UM 15, four plays later Vandy had a fourth and 24 at the 29, thanks to defensive efforts from Greg Hardy, Fon Ingram, Allen Walker and associates.

A 47-yard field goal by Vanderbilt's Ryan Fowler was wide left with 6:05 to go before intermission. The Rebs took over at their own 29.

Ole Miss then went the distance in eight plays, Dexter McCluster getting things started with a 24-yard reception from Snead, followed by an eight-yard and a 16-yard run by Brandon Bolden.

It was Bolden who caught a quick-hitter across the middle from Snead for the touchdown, a 12-yarder to the wide-open Rebel. Shene converted for a 17-0 UM lead with 2:55 to go before halftime.

A Vanderbilt kickoff return of 56 yards to the Rebel 44 put the Commodores in business. But the Rebel defense stiffened once again, and on fourth and 17 from the UM 20, Fowler was wide left again, this time with 37 seconds to go in the half.

The half ended with the Rebels up by 17.

Snead was 14-of-23 with two touchdowns and one interception in the first half for 188 yards. The Rebs had 56 yards on the ground for 244 total yards in the first half. Bolden had a large chunk of Ole Miss' rushing total with 36 yards.

Vanderbilt, meanwhile, had zero yards passing in the first half and just 88 yards rushing. Commodore quarterback Larry Smith was 0-for-9.

The Rebel defense came out to start the third quarter and throttled Vandy's offense again on a three and out. After a Brett Upson punt, Ole Miss began at its own 37 and moved 63 yards in seven plays with Snead hitting Hodge on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 10:59 to go in the third period. Shene's point after was blocked, his first unsuccessful extra point after 88 straight conversions. The Rebels led 23-0.

From that point on, the Rebel defense more than did its job, while the Rebel offense could get little done - and nothing in the way of points.

After Ole Miss held Vandy to a punt, a Snead interception set the Commodores up for their first points. Snead's pass for McCluster was picked off by Casey Hayward. In seven plays from the Rebel 34, Vandy QB Larry Smith hit Udom Umoh for a 7-yard pass for the score. Fowler's point after made it 23-7 with 5:54 to go in the third period.

Snead was picked off again, his third of the game, before the third quarter ended. But Vandy couldn't produce any points from their stellar defensive moment.

The Rebel defensive effort in the fourth quarter was superb on more than one occasion. With third and goal at the Rebel 5 for Vandy, a Smith pass was tipped and intercepted by Marcus Temple who ran it out of the end zone to the Ole Miss 35.

After the Rebel offense again could do nothing in three plays and punted, the Commodores got it back down deep into Ole Miss territory. On fourth and 3 at the UM 12, Greg Hardy knocked down a Smith pass to give the ball back to his offense.

Snead ended the night 19-of-34 for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He also had three interceptions.

Bolden had 89 yards on 16 carries. Hodge caught eight passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

The Rebels, who had 23 first downs to seven for Vanderbilt, wound up with 397 yards of offense - 237 through the air and 160 on the ground.

Smith for Vandy was 10-of-27 for 69 yards with one TD - all the production coming in the second half. He also had one interception.

Warren Norman was Vandy's leading ground gainer with 86 yards on 14 carries.

Patrick Trahan led Rebel tacklers with 10, while Jonathan Cornell had eight.

Brent Trice led VU with 14 tackles.

Next week Ole Miss hosts Alabama (5-0, 2-0).

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