Time ran out on LSU with the Tigers poised at the Rebel 5-yard line after completing a pass in traffic that might have set up a game-winning field goal.
There was one second left, but the Tigers had no timeouts remaining. Jordan Jefferson appeared to want to spike the ball, but by then there was no time remaining. And the game was over.
Ole Miss, playing at Mississippi State next Saturday, improved to 8-3 on the season and 4-3 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU now has the same record as the Rebels.
“I don’t know what all happened down there at the end,” said an elated Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. “I just know the scoreboard read 25-23 Ole Miss Rebels!”
After Ole Miss’ Joshua Shene kicked a 23-yard field goal to give his team a 25-17 edge with 3:42 left, the Tigers moved 66 yards in 10 plays in just over two minutes. With 1:16 to go, the Tigers recovered an onsides kick at their own 42 to set things up for the finish.
The Rebel defense came after Jefferson as Marcus Tillman caused a hurry on an incompletion, followed by a Jefferson to Brandon LaFell 26-yard play to the Rebel 32.
Kentrell Lockett applied heat to Jefferson on the next play, another incompletion. The gameclock read 40 seconds when Emmanuel Stephens sacked Jefferson at the UM 41.
LSU called its last timeout with 32 seconds to go. Jefferson then hit Stevan Ridley on a short pass in the left flat, and Patrick Trahan stopped it for a loss of seven yards.
From the UM 48, Jefferson heaved a pass toward the end zone as the clock ticked down. When Terrance Toliver came down with the football in traffic, the Tigers were at the 5 – with one tick left on the clock.
Before Jefferson could stop the clock to allow the LSU field goal unit to get on the field, time expired.
“Give the seniors a lot of credit,” Nutt said. "They fought so hard and I’m so proud of them. I was disappointed we didn’t score on that last series to put it away. But I love the character of our team and the way we played to the very end.”
Nutt said there were some obvious reasons for the victory.
“No turnovers. That’s the key,” the second-year Rebel head coach said “Our defense was spectacular. And we’re rolling on offense."
Field goals were a big part of the storyline in the early going. After Ole Miss went up 3-0 on a Shene 45-yard field goal on the first possession of the game, LSU answered by blocking a Shene field goal attempt also of 45 yards as Patrick Peterson picked it up and raced 53 yards for a touchdown.
The Rebels pulled to within a point at 7-6 on another Shene field goal, this one of 26 yards. The Tigers then answered with an 8-play, 53-yard drive after a nice kickoff return by Ron Brooks to the LSU 47. Jordan Jefferson hit Reuben Randle on a 17-yard touchdown pass for 14-6 lead.
In the second quarter, another Shene field goal, this one of 34 yards, pulled the Rebs to within five points at 14-9 with 8:51 to go before halftime.
After LSU’s Josh Jasper was good on a 51-yard field goal for a 17-9 advantage, the Tigers tried a short, onsides sky kick that went out of bounds. After a 5-yard penalty was assessed, the Rebels were in business at the LSU 47.
Five plays later, Jesse Grandy took it in from the 3-yard line. The Rebels went for two, and a pass from Jevan Snead to Markeith Summers was incomplete. There was 4:40 to go in the second quarter and it was 17-15 LSU.
The Tigers moved into Ole Miss territory with third and 6 at the Rebel 39. But Emmanuel Stephens sacked Jefferson for a loss of eight, and the Tigers punted.
Ole Miss had 1:31 left to do something from its own 18 but got only to the Tigers 30 as time expired after a 34-yard reception by Summers of a Snead pass.
There was no scoring in the third quarter and a kick proved to be the pivotal play. Tyler Campbell’s punt of 41 yards was downed by Marcus Temple at the 1-yard line after the ball was knocked toward him by an alert Lionel Breaux. The fleld was flipped and the Rebs took advantage.
The Ole Miss defense kept LSU in its own territory and the Tigers punted to give Ole Miss the ball at the LSU 44. In three plays the Rebs were in for points.
On second and four from the Tiger 27, Snead handed to McCluster who hit a wide open Shay Hodge for the go-ahead touchdown. It was McCluster's first career completion. Shene converted to make it 22-17 with 13:33 to go.
“We worked on it all week. They were keying on him so much,” Nutt said of McCluster’s successful scoring play. “They were keying on him left middle and we called it the right time.”
Jefferson immediately drove the Tigers downfield for the touchdown that drew them to within two. The Tiger signal-caller hit Reuben Randle for 25 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers went for two to tie it. Cassius Vaughn was called for interference, and LSU got another chance. Kendrick Lewis forced a hurry of Jefferson who again threw toward Vaughn but incomplete.
With the Tigers down by two points, things were indeed set up for the dramatic final moments in another classic Ole Miss-LSU football contest.