As the season’s end approaches, the Vanderbilt Commodores kept their bowl dreams alive on Saturday night in Nashville with a 36-29 overtime victory over the visiting Ole Miss Rebels.
Kalija Lipscomb scored the game-winning touchdown in the first overtime on a slant route near the goal line. Ole Miss nearly responded with a touchdown of its own, but it was called back on video review. Vanderbilt broke up the fourth-down pass to seal the win.
“Bottom line is we needed a win,” said head coach Derek Mason after the game. “This team finally dug deep. It wasn’t pretty, but you know they played.”
When asked about finishing games and the statement that tonight made, Mason said that, “This football team’s been close, it’s been extremely close. The opportunity came our way, a couple of guys made some plays. When it was all said and done, we were able to get a victory.”
The opening drive saw Ole Miss breakout of their own territory with a breakout pass to A.J. Brown, but the Rebels would ultimately be stopped on a fourth-and-1 near midfield.
The visitors started their next drive deep in their own territory. A third-down conversion and stumbling fumble recovery helped the offense to the redzone before a third down sack by Dayo Odeyingbo forced the Rebels to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Luke Logan.
With nothing coming from the Vanderbilt offense, the Rebels would again drive, this time all the way to the Vanderbilt half-yard line before a misstep, drop, and third-down stop would force another field goal from Logan. But the Ole Miss offense finally erupted as A.J. Brown took the first play of the Rebel’s next possession 84 yards for a touchdown, giving the visitors a two-score lead.
This sudden explosion of offense carried over to Vanderbilt’s next possession, as quarterback Kyle Shurmur hit tight end Jared Pinkney for a 39-yard completion on the first play. The offense continued to drive in Ole Miss territory, eventually settling for a 37-yard Riley Guay field goal.
A disappointing three-and-out by the Rebels only got worse as Mac Brown’s punt attempt was by Max Worship and bounced out of the Ole Miss endzone for a Commodores’ safety. Vanderbilt received the free kick, and marched to the Rebels’ redzone, with the drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown to Kalija Libscomb.
Ole Miss responded with another three-and-out, giving the Commodores’ the ball back with two timeouts and 21 seconds remaining in the first half. An interception by Ken Webster ended any hopes of a Vanderbilt score, and the Rebels would kneel out the clock to take a 13-12 lead to the locker room.
The home team came out of the locker room swinging, as Vanderbilt marched 64 yards to take the lead, in a drive finished by a one-yard touchdown run by Vaughn. The following Ole Miss drive was halted in the endzone and finish with a third field goal.
A Vanderbilt punt gone awry gave the Rebels the ball at the Commodores’ 26-yard line, but a three-and-out only awarded the visitors a 35-yard Logan field goal. Vanderbilt responded with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, including a fourth down conversion in the redzone, capped off by a three-yard touchdown reception by C.J. Bolar.
Ole Miss drove across midfield to the Vanderbilt 23 before a Jordan Ta’amu pass was picked off by LaDarius Wiley. After a Vanderbilt punt, the Rebels again marched down the field, this time finishing off with a nine-yard touchdown catch by DaMarkus Lodge.
The Commodores would take the ball and drive into Ole Miss territory, where a third down sack by Benito Jones halted the offense’s progress. Riley Guay’s 44-yard field goal put the Commodores ahead with just over five minutes to play.
The following Ole Miss drive made it all the way to the Vanderbilt 33-yard line, when Joejuan Williams intercepted a Ta’amu shot at the endzone. But the Rebels would have one more chance to score, receiving the ball back with 1:41 to play. With 40 seconds left in regulation, Luke Logan’s 32-yard kick tied the score at 29 all, and the game went to overtime soon after.
Vanderbilt took first possession in overtime and after a big run from Vaughn, Shurmur found Lipscomb for the go-ahead score. This marked the 60th touchdown of Shurmur’s career, breaking Jay Cutler’s school record. On the ensuing Ole Miss possession, a controversial touchdown reception was overturned, and the Rebels were unable to convert on the following fourth down, handing the Commodores their first home SEC win since 2016.
Randall Haynie, the defensive back covering A.J. Brown on the overturned touchdown in overtime, was asked to talk about the pivotal moment late in the game.
“I saw him catch it, so I just tried to play my hands through his hands. Personally, I felt it could go either way, but I felt like I actually picked it off because the ball didn’t touch the ground at all.”
This confidence in the defensive play was echoed by fellow cornerback Joejuan Williams, who had the pass breakup on the final play of the game in addition to an interception and three more breakups earlier in the game.
“You sure did pick it off,” Williams interjected as Haynie explained why he thought he’d earned an interception. “That sure was an interception and they should have marked it an interception too. Just letting y’all know,” he said with a wide smile across his face.
The win sets up a rivalry game with the Tennessee Volunteers next weekend in Nashville. With both teams currently at 5-6, the winner of next week’s throwdown will become bowl eligible, while the losers will head home with their postseason dreams crushed. Vanderbilt will be seeking their third straight win against Tennessee, with statewide bragging rights once again on the line.
Said Mason about next weekend’s game, “The Vols are coming to town, and we both understand what’s at stake so let’s play ball.”