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Football Wins Thriller vs. Texas A&M, 38-35

Photo from Ole Miss Football Facebook

It was a fierce, back-and-forth battle between Ole Miss and Texas A&M all game long. But with the game on the line, the Rebel defense stood tall, with sophomore defensive lineman Zxavian Harris just barely tipping a potential game-tying field goal astray – sealing a thrilling 38-35 victory for the Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway on Saturday.

All week, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin warned his team that the Aggies were for real, and Saturday’s tug-of-war proved him right. The Rebels (8-1, 5-1 SEC) were firing on all cylinders on offense, ending with 518 total yards – thanks in large part to a superb passing outing of 387 yards – but Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC) snagged a late fourth-quarter lead to put some fear into the Vaught-Hemingway faithful.

The Aggies were no slouches on offense either, ending the day with 457 total yards, and their talented defense gave Ole Miss fits at times – including a huge 75-yard blocked field goal returned for a touchdown to stymie the Rebels from going up three scores in the first half. From that point, both teams traded scores until A&M broke the streak with a long drive late in the fourth to take a 35-31 lead. But Ole Miss responded with a late march of their own and Harris’ blocked field goal on the ensuing Aggie drive to hang on for victory.

Rebel quarterback Jaxson Dart was electric, ending the day 24-of-33 for 387 yards and two touchdowns – including 213 yards and one touchdown on 11 connections with star wideout, Tre Harris. Today’s huge game by Harris makes him just the sixth Rebel to ever break 200 yards in a single game, the ninth total 200-yard receiving game in school history.

Sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins battled his way through a stout Aggie run defense for 102 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 23 carries – putting him second all-time at Ole Miss in rushing touchdowns (28) and fifth in rushing yards (2,360).

The Rebel defense was bent, but it never fully broke, with two huge late pass breakups by leading tackler Trey Washington (10 tackles) and DeShawn Gaddie Jr. on A&M’s last drive to force the eventual blocked 47-yard try at the end of the game.

Judkins broke through an early stalemate to get the scoring started, punching in from nine yards out to get the Rebels on the board, 7-0, at the 7:45 mark. Ole Miss forced two more Aggie punts before Dart connected with Tre Harris from 11 yards out to go up 14-0 at 12:53 in the second quarter – capping a 94-yard drive that started deep in the Rebels’ own territory.

After another three-and-out, the Aggies were facing a potential 17-0 hole when it caught a massive momentum swing. Aggie defensive lineman Shemar Turner blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt by Caden Davis, and defensive back Jacoby Matthews scooped up the loose ball with 75 yards of daylight ahead of him to cut the Rebel lead to 14-7 with 8:12 left in the first half.

Ole Miss got right back to work on offense, though, with senior wideout Jordan Watkins connecting wide-open from Dart from 29 yards out on a bit of trickery near the sideline. An Aggie penalty pushed the ball to the 1-yard line for the point after, but the Rebels were unable to score after deciding to go for it through the air.

Down 20-7, the Aggies put together a methodical 12-play, 75-yard drive that chewed 5:09 off the clock, ending the first half scoring on a 13-yard touchdown rush by running back Le’Veon Moss with 1:44 to go, making it a 20-14 Rebel advantage at the break.

In the third quarter, both teams traded touchdowns across a span of less than two minutes. Judkins crossed the line from six yards out at the 7:04 mark to cap a quick 80-yard drive that took just five plays and 1:13 off the clock, with the two-point try successful this time from Dart to Harris. The Aggies showed off their speed on the next drive as well, covering 75 yards in just five plays and 1:59, with quarterback Max Johnson finding tight end Jake Johnson on a 19-yard score at the 5:05 mark.

Ole Miss added a 22-yard field goal from Davis with 46 seconds to go in the third to make it a 31-21 game going into the fourth, but Texas A&M took command of the game in the final frame. The Aggies got back on the board with 12:04 to play after a one-yard rush by Amari Daniels, cutting it to a 31-28 Rebel lead. The A&M defense forced a three-and-out on the next Ole Miss drive and took advantage of its opportunity with the ball again, marching 67 yards on 12 plays and erasing a massive 6:24 off the clock – with Max Johnson crossing on a one-yard QB keeper to take a 35-31 lead with 4:34 to play.

The Rebels didn’t flinch, though, scoring again to take back a 38-35 lead following a nine-play, 75-yard drive of their own that took 2:54 off the clock and ended with Judkins’ third rushing touchdown of the day.

Johnson and the Aggies got the ball back with 1:40 to play and slowly set about marching right back down into Rebel territory. Two big overturned calls on the field helped keep the Aggies alive – including what appeared to be a game-sealing interception by Gaddie – with A&M ending up on the Ole Miss 29-yard line with two seconds to play.

Sophomore defensive lineman Zxavian Harris – who entered with two prior blocked kicks in his career – was able to just barely reach up and tip Aggie kicker Randy Bond’s game-tying attempt from 47 yards out, sending it just mildly astray as the clock hit zeroes and the Rebel victory was assured.

Ole Miss is 8-1 for the second straight season, the first time doing so in back-to-back years since 1961 (8-1) and 1962 (9-0). The Rebels now face a huge test on the road at No. 1 Georgia next Saturday, Nov. 11. Kickoff time and TV network will be announced at a later time.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

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