The way the ninth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels handled falling down at halftime for the first game this season gave fans a sneak peek at exactly how good they could be this year.
Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt 52-28 on Saturday after coming back from a 10-point hole behind a career-high 448 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Jaxson Dart. This was Ole Miss’ first 6-0 start since 2014.
“This year, there is no end to what we can accomplish, “added Dart. “Thus, I’m eager. Just keep improving.”
After falling behind 20-10 in the second quarter, the Rebels (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) went on to win the game for the fourth time in a row.
Just before halftime, Quinshon Judkins scored the first of his two touchdown runs, and the Rebels added three more in the third quarter for a total of 35 straight points.
Coach Lane Kiffin remarked that Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-2) was outscored 42-8 by his Rebels to win the game, and he made a joke about how the head coach had a wonderful pep talk at halftime.
In the beginning, “they did what they were supposed to do,” Kiffin said.
Jonathan Mingo caught nine passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, an Ole Miss record and a season high nationwide. His final catch was a short pass that he took 71 yards to the end zone after catching it at the line of scrimmage.
With 18 seconds left, Matt Jones scored a 1-yard touchdown run for the Rebels to increase the deficit.
For second-year coach Clark Lea, Vanderbilt’s loss was the 23rd straight SEC contest and the 10th straight overall. The Commodores went ahead 20-10 after scoring 13 straight points, but were blanked after the break. For Vandy, De’Rickey Wright intercepted two passes.
With 1:32 remaining in the first half, Ray Davis ended Vanderbilt’s longest drive this season with a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle after Lea decided to go for the touchdown rather than a field goal on fourth-and-3 at the Ole Miss 5. For a 20-10 advantage, the Commodores ran 15 plays and consumed 8:54 of the clock.
Quinshon Judkins scored from two yards out two plays later to bring Ole Miss within 20-17 at the half after Dart connected Mingo with a 48-yard throw down to the Vandy 3.
Simply put, Ole Miss dominated the third period, outscoring Vandy 21-0 and outgaining them offensively by a margin of 217-31. Despite only having possession of the ball for 18 minutes and 43 seconds, the Rebels managed to outgain Vanderbilt 591-403. That third quarter had just 4:15 of total possession time.
“We have spurts where like that second half where it just looks like we’re unstoppable,” Dart said. “So we just got to be able to find that and find that rhythm, just find that consistency every game. And, you know, you know, there’s no limit to what we can achieve this year.”
Ole Miss took the lead for the first time since the first quarter after Zach Evans’ 24-yard touchdown run to end the Rebels’ opening drive. Ole Miss quickly added a touchdown. Judkins scored from 6 yards on the following play to give the team a 31-20 advantage after Ladarius Tennison recovered AJ Swann’s lateral that Davis had dropped.
With 6:30 remaining in the third, Dart extended the lead with a flawless pass to Mingo for a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown, making the score 38-20.
“As we faltered on offense in the third quarter we needed some stops,” Lea said. “We’re not to the point as a program where we can play like that and still be able to win.”