By Parrish Alford
NASHVILLE – On a night for Ole Miss freshmen and quarterbacks, senior running back Jeff Scott finally delivered the Rebels from despair.
Scott scored on a 75-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 7 seconds left, and Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt 39-35 before a sellout crowd of 40,350 at Vanderbilt Stadium early Friday morning.
“We stole one tonight,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We didn’t necessarily play that well, particularly defensively in the second half. But one of the staples of our program since I’ve been here is that you play for 60 minutes and you do not blink and you play until the whistle blows at the end of the game.”
Scott’s dramatic run came seconds after the Commodores scored what seemed to be the winning touchdown and had done so with drama of its own.
“I knew we had to make something happen,” Scott said. “Last year, it was very painful. They came back. It was basically the same situation. We didn’t want to go through that again and feel that pain. We can’t. It is a long ride back home.”
And the win was not sealed until Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt intercepted a tipped pass at the Ole Miss 27.
Had Vanderbilt scored a winning touchdown, it would have been the third TD in the final 1:30 of the game.
Down by four, Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels found his favorite target, Jordan Matthews, behind Ole Miss safety Trae Elston on fourth-and-18 from the 24 to keep Vanderbilt’s hopes alive with a 42-yard gain.
On the next play, the Rebels lost Vandy tight end Steven Scheu. He was all alone when Carta-Samuels found him on the left side for the apparent winning touchdown, a 34-yard play. It turned out only to be a short-lived 35-32 Commodores lead.
Vanderbilt (0-1) had won five of the last six in the series with Ole Miss (1-0).
“The game is never won, just like it was never won last year when we were down at their place and came back and won,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “They did the same thing to us. We got a taste of our own medicine.”
The Rebels’ win required a dramatic turnaround in the second half.
Ole Miss quarterbacks Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace scored from down close as Ole Miss found its offensive groove in the final two quarters.
Four Ole Miss freshmen contributed in big ways, the most notable wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who had nine catches for 82 yards and was a key element as the Rebels regained momentum in the second half.
It was a complete turnaround from a first half of dominance by a rebuilt Vanderbilt defensive front that sacked Wallace four times.
Trailing 21-10 at halftime, the Rebels regained the lead with an 86-yard drive capped by Wallace’s 1-yard run. The kick made it 32-28, a cushion provided when Wallace passed to Treadwell for a 2-point conversion after the Rebels drove 75 yards on 15 plays late in the third. It was Wallace scoring then too, a 3-yard run.
The Rebels forced a Vanderbilt punt on the Commodores’ next possession and took the ball at their own 27 with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left and a four-point lead.
Ole Miss was unable to cross mid-field, and Vanderbilt got the ball back at its 20 with 4:24 remaining after Tyler Campbell punted to the end zone. The Commodores responded by moving 80 yards in seven plays with the big play to Matthews, who seconds later had left the game with cramps.
Both teams had first-half success, Vanderbilt had more and had it later.
Ole Miss cashed in a turnover and had good field position early, but Vanderbilt erased the Rebels’ quick 10-0 lead when the Commodores began to find a path to Bo Wallace.
They also began to find Jordan Matthews.
Vanderbilt’s All-SEC receiver to a screen pass 55 yards for a score, and Vanderbilt had rallied with two touchdowns to lead 14-10 with 10 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half.
The Commodores sacked Wallace four times in the half and didn’t stop with Matthews’ long catch-and-run.
Jerron Seymour capped a 71-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run in which he reversed his field and broke three tackles. That made it 21-10 with 3:27 left in the half.
The Rebels turned Tony Conner’s interception into a quick three points, but the 30-yard field goal revived memories of red zone shortcomings against the Commodores last year.
Those concerns subsided for a time when a 9-yard run by Jeff Scott moved the ball to the 1. Two plays later Brunetti scored over the left side, and it was 10-0 with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Two things changed for the Vanderbilt offense in the second quarter. The Commodores gave quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels a little more protection, and that allowed him to get Matthews involved on a 71-yard touchdown drive.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Associated Press contributed to this story.