The Ole Miss Rebels made a furious attempt to upset nationally ranked Texas A&M, only to lose a 41-38 heartbreaker in the final seconds of the game.
As he did last year, Johnny Manziel, A&M’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, brought his team back from a fourth quarter deficit and claimed victory in front of 60,950 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He finished the game with 346 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns. A&M moves to 5-1 and 2-1 in the SEC. Ole Miss drops to 3-3 and 1-3 in the SEC.
Click here for box score, scoring summary, and team stats.
Though Rebels everywhere are feeling pain from the loss, they can rest assured the future of their football team looks bright. Numerous freshman receivers made their mark on the game. Laquon Treadwell caught eight passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns; Quincy Adeboyejo had three receptions for 33 yards; and tight end Evan Engram had 3 catches for 26 yards and one touchdown.
Ole Miss junior quarterback Bo Wallace was 22 of 36 for 301 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Junior Vince Sandersled all receivers with 3 catches for 90 yards, including a 70 yard reception for a touchdown.
Back and forth
As they frequently do, the Aggies scored on their opening possession. They went 78 yards on eight plays and finished with running back Ben Malena going in for a touchdown from seven yards out. Bo Wallace and the Rebels quickly responded on their second drive of the night with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Sanders. The catch was the longest of Sanders’ career and created a 7-7 tie.
On A&M’s ensuing possession, outstanding sophomore running back Trey Wlliams scored on an 18-yard touchdown run, making it 14-7. However, Ole Miss responded with a 42-yard field goal by senior kicker Andrew Ritter that made the score 14-10 going into halftime.
On their first possession of the second half, the Aggies scored when Manziel made a five-yard run into the end zone. This gave the Aggies a 21-10 lead, their largest of the game. But Ole Miss has shown all season long that they are not going to go silently into the night. Instead, they received the Aggie kickoff and went 14 plays and 75 yards, culminating with a 17-yard touchdown catch by Treadwell from Barry Brunetti, Ole Miss’ senior quarterback. This was Treadwell’s first collegiate reception for a touchdown and made the score 21-17.
Moving into the fourth quarter, the Aggies kicked a 37-yard field goal that stretched their lead to seven, 24-17. But as they did all night, the Rebels fought back and tied the game on Brunetti’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Engram.
Just 1:34 later, Ole Miss took its first lead of the game on a 19-yard pass from Wallace to Treadwell that made the score 31-24. Sophomore defensive back Trae Elston had recovered an A&M fumble on the Aggies 41-yard line that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
In the continuing see-saw battle that had fans on both sides sitting on pins and needles, the Aggies answered on the next drive when Trey Williams crossed the goal line on a 9-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 31-31. Ole Miss appeared unfazed and soon scored a touchdown on a 51-yard pass from Wallace to sophomore running back Jaylen Walton. This gave the Rebels a 38-31 lead.
Unfortunately for the Ole Miss, Johnny Manziel was not done yet. He continued to work his magic and with 3:07 left in the game scored on a 6-yard run that tied the game at 38-38.
Ole Miss simply could not get anything going on its ensuing possession and was forced to go three-and-out. A&M got the ball back and scored the winning field goal as the clock ticked down to zero.
Costly game for the Rebels
In addition to the pain of a close loss, the Rebels suffered numerous injuries throughout the course of the night. None was more frightening than that of linebacker Serderius Bryant who was injured on A&M’s final drive. He had to be carted off the field on a stretcher and the extent of the injury is not yet known—though he was able to give the “thumbs up” sign as he was being taken away.
The Ole Miss defense was thin when it entered the game and things went downhill from there. With defensive ends C.J. Johnsonand Carlos Thompson already out with an injury, the Rebels lost defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, defensive back Mike Hilton, defensive tackle Issac Gross, defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton, and Bryant.
In his post-game press conference, Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze reflected on the tough loss for his Rebels:
“Obviously we are very disappointed for our kids. They fought their guts out and played their hearts out against a very good football team, and had their chances to win. It really boils down to we had a chance to make some plays and didn’t and they did. There were a lot of things that could have happened but didn’t. We were so short-handed that we couldn’t go with a lot of our defensive packages. We really only had one option there at the end. I couldn’t tell you how many folks were down on the defensive side. It was so many that we couldn’t go into our ‘money’ or ‘dime’ packages. Again, I am very proud of our kids. It’s disappointing, and we have to get one of these to go our way. We have to get them back for another difficult test next Saturday night.”
Legendary Ole Miss Receiver proud of the team
I spoke with former wide receiver Shay Hodge following the loss to A&M. Hodge is one of the all-time greatest to ever catch passes for Ole Miss. He still holds the record for most receiving yards in a season (1,135 in 2009), ranks second all-time in receptions (173) and TD catches (22), and is tied for second in 100-yard receiving games (6). If that isn’t impressive enough, Hodge leads all Rebel receivers with 2,646 career receiving yards.
Click here to view the Ole Miss Rebels’ Record Book.
Hodge reflected on the game and expressed his support for the Rebel players:
“I feel like they played hard and with a lot of passion. The guys are young and they never give up. I love that about them. I’m proud of our players, and, in my opinion, they are coming along and will only continue to get better each game. I look forward to the rest of the season, and I know we have a bright future.”
The Rebels have to put aside this heartbreaking loss and prepare to play LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) next Saturday at 6:00 pm in Oxford. With five games remaining at home, there are plenty of opportunities for the Rebels to turn things around—and, thankfully, none of them involve the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Photo credit: Spruce Derden, USA Today Sports