By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Andrew Ritter’s 41-yard field goal with two seconds on the clock overcame a couple of crucial mistakes in the second half, and Ole Miss knocked off No. 6 LSU 27-24 before a crowd of 61,160 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
A defense missing four starters because of injury and one – cornerback Senquez Golson – because of a suspension that came to light early Saturday morning, intercepted LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger three times in the first half and helped the Rebels built a 17-0 lead.
But an Ole Miss fumble, a muffed punt by the Rebels and Mettenberger’s poise helped the Tigers tie the game at 24 with 3:19 to play.
The Rebels (4-3, 2-3 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak.
“I’ve dreamed about this since I was a little kid, back in high school. Laying in bed this is what I would dream of,” Ritter said.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace completed 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards and drew praise from his coach, Hugh Freeze, who said hugging Wallace’s neck in the locker room was made all the more special by the criticism of his quarterback’s performance after the Rebels’ 41-38 loss to No. 9 Texas A&M last week.
“The criticism that young men take in today’s game because of social media, people feeling that they can take shots at them, is not just. For him to put blinders on, ignore the critics and the cheap shots that people may take … I just know it was good to hug his neck tonight,” Freeze said.
It wasn’t just Wallace. The Rebels, who were missing starting tailback Jeff Scott, rushed for 176 yards, 105 by sophomore Jaylen Walton who also scored on runs of 2 and 26 yards.
I’Tavius Mathers rushed for 52 yards, including 21 on four carries on the winning drive. His 12-yard run to the 30 with seconds ticking away earned him two more carries to make sure the ball was positioned just right for Ritter’s attempt.
Ritter hit from 28 yards earlier in the game, but had a 29-yard attempt blocked in the fourth quarter after the Rebels had driven 70 yards.
That block snapped a string of seven makes for Ritter, who asked to be redshirted as a senior last year.
“He’ll remember that for a lifetime,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “He felt awful because the time before the protection was good. The snap was a little high, and he kicked a low liner. He felt awful about that, because it would have given us a two-score lead. I’m glad it worked out for him.”
The Rebels led 17-0 after Walton’s 2-yard run with 9:29 left in the third.
A Mathers fumble near mid-field and a muffed punt return by Korvic Neat at the Ole Miss 13 led to 10 points to fuel the Tigers (6-2, 3-2 SEC) comeback.
The Rebels’ defense produced multiple big plays in the first half, stopping LSU drives with a sack and three interceptions, two in the end zone and one at the Ole Miss 20.
Mettenberger had thrown only two interceptions all year and has now thrown five in two years against Ole Miss. Golson picked off two in Baton Rouge last year.
The Rebels’ emergency cornerbacks were strong in the first two quarters, limiting the LSU receiving duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to a combined four catches, three for 45 yards by Beckham.
It took the Rebels three possessions to move the chains once, but when they did Wallace hit a groove.
He was sacked twice, once when a blitzer was unaccounted for, but he was 16-for-23 passing for 200 yards.
Ole Miss outgained LSU 525-388.
“To God be the glory,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
“It was scary. I give the credit to our assistant coaches and the heart of our kids.”