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Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35: An Early Entry for Game of the Year

The Rebels win a wild game after a bizarre fourth quarter that made the match-up an instant classic

Frederick Breedon

It's hard to know where to start a recap of this game. Should we begin with the 10-0 Ole Miss lead that made things look like the Rebels would win in a rout? Or should we instead flash forward to the Vanderbilt run in the second quarter that put the Commodores ahead and made them look like they were in total control.

Or perhaps we should just skip to the fourth quarter, the glorious and painful fourth quarter that made this game an instant classic and the earliest entry for best SEC game of the season. The fourth quarter that featured three lead changes and, in the final two minutes alone, four plays of 34 or more yards. Yes, let's start there.

There were about nine minutes left in the game when Bo Wallace took the ball on the option and ran one yard for the score. That erased what had been a 28-25 Vanderbilt lead and instead gave Ole Miss a 32-28 edge. And then things calmed down a bit, the two teams trading punts before the Commodores took over with 4:24 left in the game.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, already the hero of the game for Vanderbilt, took a hit on the resulting drive that led him to vomit on the field. After a brief visit to the sideline, and when it still wasn't certain what had caused the episode, Matthews came back into the game. Then, on fourth-and-18 from the Vanderbilt 24, Vanderbilt decided to go with a play fake.

For whatever reason, it worked. Matthews caught the perfectly placed ball from Austyn Carta-Samuels for a 42-yard reception. Steven Scheu followed that up on the next play with a 34-yard touchdown catch, and with a minute and half left on the clock, it looked like Ole Miss might have been a goner.

Not tonight. On second-and-ten from the Rebels 25, Wallace handed the ball to Jeff Scott, who promptly split a few defenders, dodged a few more and ran 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The score was now 39-35.

But wait, there was more. Darrius Sims' 34-yard return on the resulting kickoff and the face mask that followed gave the Commodores prime field position for one last, game-winning rally. But a few plays later, with Vanderbilt in Ole Miss territory, Matthews re-emerged -- this time to miss the reception and tip the ball into the hands of Cody Prewitt for the interception that put the game away.

And so two teams expected to be little more than also-rans in the SEC combined for 74 points, more than 900 yards of total offense and five lead changes. And in the process, they reminded us why we've waited so long for this game to return to our lives for its brief four-month stay before it returns to its hibernation.

Welcome back, college football; we've missed you.