Ole Miss dodges Vanderbilt, 27-16

OXFORD, Miss.-- For one minute and 12 seconds, the Vanderbilt Commodores were on top of the world.  You see, they were leading the No. 3 team in the country on the road.  However, Ole Miss would scratch and claw its way to a 13-3 halftime lead and then battle to a 27-16 victory.

A stunned Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 60,000 mostly red adorned fans watched in disbelief as the Commodores marched 73 yards in 19 plays to the Ole Miss 10.  Tommy Openshaw then calmly booted a 28-yard field goal top put Vandy up 3-0 on the Rebels with 3:25 to go in the first quarter.  On that drive the Commodores converted on four third down conversions.   

Ole Miss would quickly re-take the lead with high tempo, 1 minute, 4 second drive that culminated in a 20-yard pass from Chad Kelly to Damore'ea Stringfellow to put the home team up 7-3. Later in the first half the Rebels would add two Gary Wunderlick field goals to extend their lead to 13-3 going into halftime.  However, the Rebels were far from safe from the visiting Commodores.  

In a drive that featured two key receptions by sophomore Caleb Scott, Vandy quickly marched 80 yards in 10 plays before another Openshaw field goal, this time from 41-yards, narrowed the Ole Miss lead to 13-6.  Scott would finish the day with five catches for 42 yards.  

Two field goals by Vanderbilt?  No biggee to the Ole Miss folks but when the Rebel's next possession stalled and a field goal had to be attempted,  Vandy lineman Nifae Lealao blocked a Wunderlich attempt giving VU the ball at its own 20.  On the first play of the ensuing Commodore drive Ralph Webb sprinted 43 yards to the Ole Miss 27.  Vandy was in business again.      Eight plays later a McCrary pass to Webb for a 7-yard touchdown tied the score at 13 with 7:39 to go in the third.  A sense of concern could be felt throughout the nearly silent Vaught-Hemingway crowd and perhaps the entire college football world.   

The tie score led to furious efforts by both teams to gain an edge.  Ole Miss finally cashed in when the Rebs were able to block an Openshaw punt that was recovered by Vandy's Dare Odeyingbo at the Commodore 20, where the Rebs took over.  A Laquon Treadwell reception and a Jaylen Walton run put Ole Miss on the Commodore 1-yard line.  However, it would take five attempts before the Rebels could get into the end zone, even with the help of two penalties.  Finally, Robert Nikemdiche bulled into the end zone to put Ole Miss back on top, 20-13, a lead the Rebs wouldn't relinquish.  

Vanderbilt would not go down easy though.  On its next drive after the Rebels go-ahead score, the Commodores put together another fruitful drive.  This time marching 12 plays in 70 yards to the Ole Miss 15.  There Openshaw connected on his third field goal on the day, this time from 34 yards, with 12:12 to play in the game. 

On Vanderbilt's next possession Openshaw would miss a fourth field goal attempt, from 32 yards, wide left.  Ole Miss then marched 80 yards in just 2:48 to put the final nail in the Commodore coffin on a Jaylen Walton 3-yard run.

It was a valiant effort by the Commodores against one of the most feared teams in college football.  However, while Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason was far from happy after the game, but he was proud of his team.

"We are going to continue getting better," said Mason.  "Teams are not going to want to see us in October and November, I can tell you that.  That team has a lot of pride."  

Vanderbilt missed on a great opportunity in the second quarter when an apparent fumble, and recovery by Vandy, on punt return was instead called interference on the Commodores allowing the home team to maintain possession.  Replays clearly showed no Vandy player near the returner.  Without the call Vandy would have had the ball deep in Ole Miss territory.

Vanderbilt falls to 1-3 (0-2 SEC) with the loss. The Rebels now lead the all-time series between the two schools 50-38-2.   The Commodores will head to MTSU next Saturday.  

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