Against a Vanderbilt team that came into the game 10th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference against the run, the Rebels managed a paltry 55 yards on the ground on 40 carries. Those type numbers will lose you football games almost every time, unless your passing offense is stellar.
Ole Miss was actually sensational through the air, garnering 403 yards on 49 passes from Bo Wallace with 31 of them completions. Randall Mackey threw one incompletion.
The big pass play was the most effective for the Rebels in this game, and they went to it often to move the football down the field. It was almost all that worked with any consistency.
The lack of an effective ground game might not have been all that cost the Rebels the contest against the Commodores, but it was a major contributor.
In the receiving department, however, the Rebels shared the wealth among several capable receivers. Ja-Mes Logan and Donte Moncrief caught eight passes each, while Vince Sanders and Korvic Neat had five receptions.
It was of little consequence to Sanders that he had a nice night.
“Individually I played good,” he said, “but we came up with a loss. So it doesn’t mean that much. I would rather had a ‘W’ and went bowling.”
Sanders admits being 5-5 overall and 2-4 in SEC play is difficult since just a couple of weeks ago the team was riding high.
“Man, it’s tough and disappointing,” said Sanders, with 96 receiving yards against Vandy, including a long of 41.
So what happened? Sanders felt he knew.
“We let them stick around too long and gain confidence,” he said of the Commodores.
The Rebels were up, not comfortably, but still up 23-6 in the third quarter only to build nothing in the way of momentum after that. In fact, they only lost momentum from that point on.
“We should have made more plays as an offense,” Sanders said. “Once we got up 20-something to six, we had the momentum. But at halftime, they’ve got a good coach, and he knows how to motivate them. I guess he went in and motivated them, and they never stopped fighting. They kept coming back piece by piece.”
Vandy Makes History
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, taking the Commodores to two straight bowls in his first two years in Nashville, the first time that's ever happened in Vandy history, said his team did exactly what it wanted to do.
“We go into every week with the mentality that the first thing you have to do is stop the run,” he said.
Talk about succeeding.
“Football is about execution, and tonight we just executed,” Franklin said.
Ole Miss led from the 11:16 mark of the first quarter when Sanders caught a 9-yard pass from Wallace for the games’ first touchdown all the way until that last minute when Vandy went ahead.
But Franklin’s defense did stop Ole Miss time and time again when it counted most – deep in Commodore territory.
The Rebels had to settle for four Bryson Rose field goals and another Rose miss, a 52-yarder which was his longest attempt.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels’ running game began to show signs of ineffectiveness in the second half three games ago at Arkansas. That was the day Rose came through again with three second-half field goals, including the game-winner.
But the game-ending dramatics on this night belonged to the team from Nashville.
“We didn’t have any doubt at all,” said Commodore wide receiver Chris Boyd on coming back and winning the game. “It’s all about how mentally tough we are. We came out in the second half much more mentally prepared and it paid off.”
Most Rebels Ever
Because Vanderbilt had less than a thousand fans inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday, there were more Ole Miss fans than ever for a football game in the home venue of the Ole Miss Rebels.
And if the outcome meant anything to them, they went home disappointed as the Rebels lost in the last minute 27-26 after leading the entire game up to that point.
The crowd Saturday on a perfect night for November football was announced at 60,572, impressive by any standards for two teams that stood 5-4 and one of them that travels more poorly than any in the Southeastern Conference. Of course that being the Vandy Nation.
There’s one more home game left for the Rebels. Two weeks from now another large crowd is expected as Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State in the Battle of the Golden Egg.