The Ole Miss Rebels football team has exceeded expectations for the second year in a row as they enter their final season games at 7-4. Projected to finish towards the bottom of the SEC West, the Rebels have pulled off impressive wins against major college football powerhouses. The first came in mid-September as Ole Miss pulled away from Texas 44-23, in Austin, thanks to a second half surge. The second and most notable win of the season came against No. 6 LSU in the Magnolia Bowl on October 19. Having lost three straight against No.1 Alabama, Auburn, and No. 9 Texas A&M, the Rebels got a much-needed 27-24 win against their arch-rival and won three straight games after that. Despite the loss against Missouri, the Rebel faithful have reason to be thankful for a few game-changing plays made by the team’s biggest play makers. Here are the Top 5 plays of the Ole Miss season, so far.
1. Jeff Scott 75-yard touchdown run vs. Vanderbilt
Coming into this season opener, the Rebels had lost three straight to Vanderbilt including a 27-26 heartbreaker in Oxford last season, and since 2005 were 2-6 in the series. This was a make or break game considering the Rebels were about to face one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, particularly the first seven games. With Vanderbilt quarterback Austin Carta-Samuels’ 34-yard pass to Steven Scheu to put the Commodores on top 35-32 with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter, things looked bleak for the Rebels. But on their second play of the next drive, senior running back Jeff Scott made one of the year’s best plays with a spectacular 75-yard touchdown run to put the Rebels ahead 39-35 for good. Scott would finish with 138 total yards. Daily Mississippian Sports Editor David Collier says this was by far the biggest play of the Rebels’ season. “You take that run away and who knows where Ole Miss ends up. With such a tough stretch in our first seven games, it was key to get the Rebels off on a really good start for the 2013 season.”
2. Andrew Ritter game winning 41–yard field goal vs. LSU
This year’s Magnolia Bowl was a pivotal point in the Rebels’ season. Having lost three straight to No. 1 Alabama, Auburn and No. 9 Texas A&M coming in, the Rebels sat at 3-3 as they began the second half of their 2013 campaign against their bitter rivals to the south. After jumping out to a commanding 17-0 lead at halftime, LSU surged back to tie the game 24-24 with 3:20 left in the game. Thanks to multiple key third-down conversions by the offense, the Rebels’ chance to win rested on the foot of senior kicker Andrew Ritter, who had a 29-yard field goal blocked with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter. But Ritter came through this time as he hit the game-winner with :02 left to secure the upset of No. 6 LSU, giving Ole Miss its first win against the Bayou Bengals since 2009. Collier says getting a win over a Top 10 program was huge for the Rebels, not only for the season, but for the recruiting trail as well. “The biggest thing Hugh Freeze always talks about to recruits is winning big at Ole Miss, but to finally have a signature win like this one in his back pocket is huge, especially against a program like LSU.”
3. Jeff Scott 73-yard touchdown punt return vs. Texas
In the third week of its season, Ole Miss went to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns who dismantled the Rebels 66-31 in Oxford last season. But this game was a different story as Ole Miss looked to get revenge. Down 23-17 at halftime, the Rebels responded with two quick touchdowns to put themselves up 31-23. The game was really put out of reach, though, after Jeff Scott’s magnificent 73-yard punt return with :09 left in the third, which put them up 37-23 going into the fourth quarter. Scott would finish with 164 yards rushing and 243 total yards for the day with that touchdown. The play seemed to break the morale of Texas, both its team and fans according to Collier, as Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium fell silent and soon after emptied except for the Rebel faithful. “That was the nail in the coffin. You knew at that point Texas wasn’t going to come back, and that gave Ole Miss the energy to finish off the game.”
4. Jaylen Walton 26-yard touchdown run vs. LSU
We know Andrew Ritter ultimately won the game for Ole Miss, but there were few other plays that were key to the Rebels’ win. With LSU charging back to cut the lead to three at 17-14, the momentum began swinging in the Tigers’ favor as they inched closer. But Jaylen Walton gave the Rebel faithful a rejuvenation with his 26-yard touchdown with :03 left in the third quarter. Walton broke two tackles on his way to the end zone, sending Vaught-Hemingway Stadium into a frenzy and giving the Rebels momentum heading into the final quarter of play. Walton would finish with 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns, both career highs. Collier says Walton’s touchdown was key in breaking the momentum LSU had gained in the third quarter. “LSU started making a comeback and every Ole Miss fan in the stadium was thinking ‘Oh no, here we go again’. Jaylen breaking that run and getting another score made the Ole Miss sideline believe they could win the game.”
5. Laquon Treadwell 25-yard touchdown reception vs. Troy
An easier match up against the Troy Trojans offered the Rebel offense an opportunity to tune up before its big showdown with No. 8 Missouri. The Rebels amassed an astounding 751 total yards of offense, a new school record, while cruising to a 51-21 victory. Treadwell got the offense started off on the right foot with his spectacular 25-yard touchdown reception, breaking five tackles on the way to the end zone with 10:09 in the first quarter to put the Rebels up 7-0. Treadwell would end the day with four receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns on his way to becoming the Ole Miss freshman record holder for catches (53), yards (477) and receiving touchdowns (5) in a season. Collier says although it may not have had a huge effect on the outcome of the game, it was important to look at for other reasons. “It shows what kind of player he is and what he’s going to be at Ole Miss. The play might not have affected the game greatly but it showed how good this freshman class has been and what the future of Ole Miss football holds.”
Story contributed by Ole Miss journalism students Pete Porter & Hayden Phillips.