Vanderbilt falls apart in second half, loses to Ole Miss 52-28

A performance that saw Vanderbilt take a 20-17 lead into halftime could not be sustained as Commodores allowed 52 points in the loss to Rebels.

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Miguel Beristain

WR Will Sheppard fights for the ball in mid air, captured on Oct. 8, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Bobby Kent, Senior Staff Writer

In a tale of two halves, the Vanderbilt Commodores were soundly defeated by the No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels 52-28 on a rather chilly fall day at First Bank Stadium. The cold did not stop the scoring with the teams combining for 80 points. The first half featured 37 total points, over 450 yards of total offense and multiple big plays in the passing game. The second half saw much of the same but was dominated by Ole Miss. 

For the Rebels, USC transfer quarterback Jaxson Dart led the way, completing 25 of 32 passes for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ole Miss saw big gains from its receiving corps, with Jonathan Mingo recording 247 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jordan Watkins added to the damage, recording 117 receiving yards and a touchdown. Running back Zach Evans ran for 80 yards and a touchdown.  

The leader for Vanderbilt in the loss was running back Ray Davis, who ran for 105 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback AJ Swann, in just his third start for the Commodores, completed 27 of 38 passes for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the defensive side, safety De’Rickey Wright was an interception-catching machine, picking off Jaxson Dart twice. 

The first half was a back-and-forth affair, featuring bright moments from both teams. The Commodores jumped out early taking a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter following a 36-yard screen pass touchdown from Swann to Jayden McGowan. 

Ole Miss was quick to respond, as Dart found Watkins streaking down the middle of the field for the 61-yard touchdown to bring the game to 13-10. 

Vanderbilt would then put together arguably the best drive of its season so far, chewing up 8:54 seconds of the game clock. Following strong play from Swann and a few conversions from the offense, the Commodores found themselves inside the Ole Miss red zone. Vanderbilt subbed in Mike Wright at quarterback in a move that took the Ole Miss defense off guard. Faced with a 4th down, Clark Lea elected to keep the offense on the field, and Davis scored from 5 yards out on a read option. 

Ole Miss would then complete another of its many big plays, taking the top off the Vanderbilt defense as quarterback Jaxson Dart would find Jonathan Mingo for 48 yards to get to the Vanderbilt 2-yard line. Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins punched it in for the score, reducing Vanderbilt’s lead to 20-17 heading into the half. 

The No. 9 Rebels would blow the floodgates open in the second half, scoring 35 points over the final two quarters to rout the Commodores. Ole Miss scored in a variety of ways, with three rushing scores (two by Judkins) and two passing touchdowns. 

Ole Miss took the lead for good at the start of the second half via a Zach Evans 24-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.  

“The things that we did well in the first half we weren’t able to carry over into the second half,” Lea said following the loss.

The Vanderbilt offense would stall, punting three times, fumbling once and turning it over on downs, a far cry from the first-half scoring attack. The Commodores did score late in the game, snapping a 35-point run by Old Miss on a Swann pass into the right endzone to Will Sheppard. Vanderbilt would also convert the two-point conversion but not recover the ensuing onside kick. 

Ole Miss’s big play ability could not be stopped in the second half as the Rebels had two drives that were each one play, both 70+ yard touchdowns to Jonathan Mingo. The Rebels did not punt in the game and the longest drive for Ole Miss was 7 plays. 

“We know that you have to play four quarters in a complete game to have a chance to get the result we want,” Lea said postgame. “We didn’t do that against a good team and our margins are really thin. They were able to separate, and so we need to be better.”

With the win, the Rebels have sprinted out to a 6-0 for the first time since 2014. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, falls to 3-3 with the loss and 0-2 in SEC play. The Commodores next take on the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Saturday, Oct. 15.