BATON ROUGE, La. – Against its storied Deep South rival, Ole Miss got a solid game from its California transplant on Saturday but made too many mistakes to overcome.
The Rebels led twice in the fourth quarter against No. 5 LSU, but the Tigers turned an unsportsmanlike conduct call into great field position near midfield and drove 51 yards for the winning points.
Natchez native Stevan Ridley scored on a 7-yard run with 44 seconds left, and LSU remained in contention for a BCS bowl game with a 43-36 win over the Rebels, its first in the series since 2007.
The setback guarantees a losing season for Ole Miss (4-7, 1-6 SEC) which ends its season at home next Saturday against rival Mississippi State. LSU improves to 10-1 overall, 6-1 in the SEC.
Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Markeith Summers gave the Rebels a 36-35 lead with 4 minutes, 57 seconds remaining.
But Summers, with an LSU defender giving chase a few steps behind, leaped into the end zone, and the penalty that followed had Ole Miss kicking off from its 15.
LSU’s Patrick Peterson caught the ball at his 15 and returned it to the LSU 49.
“If a guy was near him, I’ve seen the call go either way,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “I don’t like that call, but I don’t like what (Markeith) did. We’ve got to be smart, and that’s the bottom line.”
LSU covered the 51 yards with eight running plays, most of it with freshman Michael Ford.
“We had Ford going, established him, and we had the weak option going. The combination of those two plays allowed us to go right down the field, and we scored on a nice power play,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
Masoli, the San Francisco native who transferred from Oregon, was 15 for 23 passing for 177 yards and the score to Summers. He rushed 11 times for 64 yards and scored on runs of 4 and 22 yards, the latter giving the Rebels a 30-29 lead with 8:49 left.
Masoli passed for fewer than 100 yards and threw three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, in the Rebels’ 52-14 loss at Tennessee last week. In Knoxville, he was playing seven days after a concussion.
“He felt so bad about last week and wanted to make up for the Tennessee game, which he did,” said Nutt, speaking for Masoli, who did not address the media following the game.
Masoli’s game was not without turnovers -a first-quarter interception and a third-quarter fumble led to 10 LSU points. Masoli threw a meaningless interception on the game’s final play, a desperation heave from the Ole Miss 25 with the Rebels needing seven points to extend play.
The Rebels put up 470 yards on LSU’s defense, which ranked No. 1 in the SEC and No. 5 in the nation in allowing just 273.6 yards a game.
Led by Baton Rouge native Brandon Bolden, with 91 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and Masoli, the Rebels rushed for 236 yards and four scores.
“We wanted to go after them, to put it in the lap of our offensive line and be patient, be physical,” Nutt said. “I thought we did that.”
“I’m proud of our offensive line and receivers,” Bolden said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do and executed like we’ve been preaching all season long.”
While the Rebels were executing on offense, so was LSU, and not just the final drive.
The Tigers also surpassed 200 rushing yards, 212 net, 89 from Ridley and 58 from Ford.
LSU finished with 470 total yards, almost 150 above its average of 322.7 a game.
Quarterback Jordan Jefferson got it done in the air too, going 13 for 17 for 254 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
One a touchdown drive in the third quarter, Jefferson converted a third-and-16 from the LSU 33 with a 39-yard pass to Rueben Randle.
“Our guys are resilient. They continue to fight hard and compete, and they deserved to win. They deserved to win but they did not,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600
PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal