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Rebels Drop A Close Game to A&M on Cold, Wet Night in Oxford

Jordan Wilkins scores on a 64-yard breakaway run in the first quarter of Ole Miss’ loss to Texas A&M. Photo by Derek Moreton

Despite cold, wet and windy conditions, a first-half shootout erupted in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday as Ole Miss hosted Texas A&M in an SEC battle with high stakes for both teams’ head coaches.
The Rebels and the Aggies both scored on their first two possessions of the game. But the defenses found their footing in the second half and settled in for the season’s penultimate match-up that saw Texas A&M come out on top with a 31-24 win.
“We have to give their defense credit,” Ole Miss Head Coach Matt Luke said, in a postgame press conference. “They shut us out in the second half when they had a pick-6, and ultimately the turnovers were the difference. You can’t turn the ball over and win.”
Ole Miss’ Breeland Speaks moves in for a sack on Texas A&M’s Nick Starkel. Photo by Derek Moreton

Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) opened the game with a touchdown drive as junior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu connected with A.J. Brown on a 27-yard route for the score.
Texas A&M didn’t wait long to respond with a drive of their own, as running back Keith Ford found pay dirt from one yard out.
On the very next possession Ole Miss senior running back Jordan Wilkins broke loose and carried the ball 64 yards for a score. But the Aggies quickly retaliated, scoring from 10 yards out as quarterback Nick Starkel found Damion Ratley to tie the game at 14 apiece.
As the game progressed, it became difficult for either offense to maintain the momentum they had coming out of the locker rooms.
The Rebels broke the tie at the 4:24 mark of the second quarter when Ta’amu threw a strike to Braylon Sanders for a 30-yard touchdown. Texas A&M then answered again, as Starkel carried the ball across the goal line from one yard out.
Jordan Ta’amu rushes for an Ole Miss first down against Texas A&M. Photo by Derek Moreton

Ole Miss drove the ball down the field again and took a 24-21 lead into halftime off the foot of Gary Wunderlich.
That would be the last score of the night for the Rebels. The second half turned into a defensive struggle after both teams made adjustments during the break. Texas A&M benefited from a spate of Ole Miss penalties that proved fatal during the Aggies’ final scoring drive near the end of the game. Texas A&M had to settle for a Daniel LaCamera field goal, but it was enough to seal the win.
“They were able to get pressure on the quarterback, so that was tough on Jordan (Ta’amu) and I think it was hard with the conditions, especially throwing that deep ball down the field,” Luke said. “It was a tale of two halves for us. We didn’t get it done in the second half, so credit to Texas A&M.”
The Rebels had two players go down with injuries, including Alex Givens and running back D’Vaughn Pennamon.
“They said … (Pennamon’s injury) was a dislocated knee,” Luke said. “I don’t know the extent of it. Givens is a possible concussion.”
Wilkins led the Rebels’ rushing attack with 147 yards. In the first half, he piled up 123 yards and a touchdown.
“He was about 85 percent out there, battling, and had another good game,” Luke said of Wilkins. “He had another long run. I am just really proud of him, not only [for] what he has done for this program, but what he has meant to this team this year.”
Ta’amu finished the night with 189 yards passing and two touchdown passes. He also carried the ball for 24 yards rushing.
The rocky finish could hurt Luke’s chances of keeping his job as the Rebels’ head coach, with just one more game left in the season. Sumlin has job worries of his own – even if the Aggies win at LSU next week, an 8-4 record may not be good enough to save him.
The Rebels will close out the 2017 season on Thanksgiving night against Mississippi State in the annual battle of the Egg Bowl at 6:30 p.m., on ESPN.
Below is the complete post-game press conference.

Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at adam.brown@hottytoddy.com.
For more questions or comments email us at hottytoddynews@gmail.com

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