Strange Brew

The Ole Miss-LSU had the three 'Ws' - weird, wacky and wild, but in the end the right team - the Rebels - won the Magnolia Bowl, 25-23, and set themselves up for a New Year's Day outing. Read about the insanity inside.

Most thought the Ole Miss-LSU game would be a special and heated SEC matchup, replete with everything that makes rivalries great.

But nobody guessed the craziness, the sheer weirdness, of a game that ended up 25-23 in the Rebels' favor.

Rebels and Tigers alike left jammed-packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in disbelief in what they had just witnessed - a classic with as many twists and turns and as much wackiness as any single game can produce.

The game even started strangely with a swing pass to Dexter McCluster thrown backwards by QB Jevan Snead that scooted out of bounds and was registered as a big loss followed immediately by a 57-yard run by Dex that took your breath away.

That drive bogged down and was capped by a 45-yard field goal by senior PK Josh Shene that barely cleared the crossbar.

Perhaps one of the oddest stretches these eyes have witnessed ensued.

Even as early in the game as the following took place, it allowed LSU to avoid what looked like was a potential blowout for the Rebels from taking place and set the tone for the rest of the tight game.

Let us recap.

CB Cassius Vaughn intercepted an errant Jordan Jefferson pass and raced down the sidelines, diving over the goal line with an LSU defender on his hip. Flags flew everywhere.

DE Emmanuel Stephens, who wears #95 but was identified as #85 by the ref making the call, was charged with a block to the back on the return and Vaughn was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the dive.

On the replay, the block in the back was so ticky tack it bordered on ridiculous. Jefferson wanted no part of making that tackle and was headed to the sidelines to get out of harm's way. Vaughn cut inside Jefferson's pursuit and Stephens helped the LSU QB go where he wanted to go all along with a light nudge. Technically, right call, but a no-call nine out of ten times.

Then, Vaughn's dive. An LSU defender was closing in on him and he wanted the end zone. You are allowed to dive in that scenario, but apparently not with those absurd officials. An atrocious call, by anyone's definition.

So two penalties were assessed against the Rebs and LSU's defense buckled down, forcing a field goal, which was blocked and returned for a 53-yard TD by CB Patrick Peterson.

But wait - prior to the field goal try, WR Shay Hodge, who had a magnificent day, had a TD catch nullified when the side judge said he ran out of bounds and came back in to make the catch. The replay clearly shows he was shoved and the momentum of the shove carried him out of bounds, which would allow him to come back into the field of play as an eligible receiver. Another officiating snafu.

Instead of 10-0 or 6-0 Rebels, it's 7-6 Tigers.

While that turn of events pricked the Rebs' balloon, they kept their composure when those around them - the fans - sat in stunned silence - briefly.

The Rebs marched for another Shene field goal to get the crowd back into the game, but in the meantime the play clock went out momentarily to add to the strangeness.

LSU answered with a nice kickoff return and a Jefferson to Reuben Randle TD pass to take a 14-6 lead as the first quarter wound down.

At the end of the first quarter, the Rebels had dominated. At one point, the yardage disparity was 122-9, yet the home team trailed by eight points.

Again, the Rebels rebounded and drove the length of the field only to jump offsides facing a third-and-two from the LSU 7 with Ole Miss in an unexpected unbalanced line formation to the right. Again, Shene salvaged things with a field goal and it was 14-9 LSU.

On LSU's next possession, they got into Ole Miss territory in long field goal range, but an apparent delay of game penalty on the Tigers pushed them out too far for a three-point try. Wait - the refs said LSU Coach Les Miles had called a timeout. CBS' Gary Danielson said it was a "hairline call" as to whether or not Miles called the TO in time. The result? A 50-yard field goal for LSU making the score 17-9.

Miles, the Mad Hatter, then tried an onside kick - really? - in another stroke of madness, but Peterson was out of bounds as he caught the kick. The Rebels took over in LSU territory and Snead went to work hitting Hodge twice, but to add to the craziness, there was an overturned fumble call in the mix as Hodge was stripped of the ball with a knee down. Field call? Fumble. Booth call? Knee was down. Not one Rebel in the house felt in their heart of hearts that call would be reversed. Surprise, surprise.

The Rebs went on to score on a misdirection reverse of sorts to Jesse Grandy to the right as LSU's defense followed Dexter and Snead to the left. FB Andy Hartmann plowed the road for Grandy to prance into the end zone.

Houston Nutt went with his gut to go for two to tie the game going into intermission, but the play failed. 17-15 LSU at halftime.

In the second half, the weirdness seemed to settle into normal SEC defensive football, a field position battle eventually won by the Rebels with two Tyler Campbell punts being downed inside the Tiger 10. One, by Lionel Breaux, was downed on the 1 and was a magnificent, acrobatic effort.

The Rebel defense stuffed LSU and the Rebs had terrific field position to strike from.

Ole Miss ground their way to the LSU 27 and then the playcalling duo of Nutt and Kent Austin pulled a rabbit out of their hats.

A routine handoff to McCluster sucked in the LSU defenders and Dexter, who had been 0-5 passing in his career, sold the run, pulled up and perfectly hit Hodge, all alone behind all LSU DBs, for the 27-yard go-ahead TD. Brilliant call amidst the maelstrom of that environment.

Even though the Rebel defense had found another gear, a five-point lead was not enough.

The Rebel offense, aided by a big first down on a perfectly timed third-and short option call, drove down again and seemed poised to put the game out of reach. LSU, however, bowed their necks and held the Rebs to another Shene stroke for three.

With 3:42 remaining, the weirdness returned.

LSU had not dribbled a drop on offense in the second half, but suddenly they caught fire, hitting hot receivers underneath and letting them run. Finally, Reb CB Marshay Green bit on a stop and go route by Randle and Jefferson found him for a score with 1:17 to go.

The Tigers had to go for two to tie. On the first fade attempt, Vaughn was called for pass interference. With the ball at the 1 1/2, the Rebs had to watch for a running play. LSU opted to go back to the well with the fade again and this time Vaughn defended it beautifully.

25-23, Rebs. Game over, right?

Wrong. We're just getting started.

The final 1:17 of the game may have been the biggest roller coaster ride in the annals of Ole Miss football.

Against all odds, LSU recovered the onside kick in what appeared to be an instant of confusion by the Rebel hands team. The brief euphoria of the failed two-point conversion turned into sudden horror to the Rebel faithful.

Then, LSU threw a short pass that WR Brandon LaFell turned into a big gainer to the Reb 31, within field goal range.

OK, run the ball twice and put the game on the foot of the LSU PK, right? Not Miles.

He kept trying to throw the ball and was met by major resistance from Stephens, who atoned for his earlier block in the back with a sack for an 11-yard loss.

Now, Miles has to throw the ball downfield, right? Not Les. He opts for a swing pass to RB Stevan Ridley, who is thrown for another big loss by one-legged Patrick Trahan, playing on adrenaline.

And the clock ran, all the way from 28 seconds to 9 seconds before Miles called a timeout, his last one.

Facing fourth-and-26, it was Hail Mary time. How many Hail Marys are completed? Well, this one, to Terrance Toliver with one second left.

Run the field goal team out, right? Not Miles. He called for a spike of the ball - inexplicably. Jefferson complied in all the confusion and the clock ran out.

Rebel jubilation followed.

In the end, the right team won.

The stats show Ole Miss outplayed the Tigers, clearly, and outlasted the refs, clearly.

But if you recall a crazier, weirder game, your memory is better than mine.

Oxygen, please.

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