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Ole Miss celebrates Homecoming and a 22-19 win over No. 7 Kentucky

Ole Miss celebrates Homecoming and a 22-19 win over No. 7 Kentucky

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss celebrated several things Saturday. It was Homecoming on campus. James Meredith was honored on the 50th anniversary of his enrollment as the first African American at the University.

Oh yeah, the Rebels celebrated a 22-19 win over No. 7 Kentucky.

“Really exciting win, obviously….coming down to basically the last play,” head coach Lane Kiffin said after the game.

Our guys showed up…We put it on our d-line that last drive and said you’ve got to go take this thing over….that was good to see. Obviously a lot of work to do. The crowd was awesome today. Who knows, did they false start at the end because of the crowd and that helped us win the game? Very well could have and that was awesome to see.”

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin

Ole Miss (5-0) needed a turnover to survive a late comeback bid by the Wildcats. After an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass was nullified by a penalty, Jared Ivey got to UK quarterback Will Levis and knocked the ball loose. When Tavius Robinson fell on the fumble, the Rebels had secured their fifth win of the year.

I think they really believe and they play really hard. Co-defensive coordinator Chris (Partridge) has done a great job. Proud of the guys, they’ve been very multiple…That’s a top ten team (Kentucky) without their running back (Chris Rodriguez)….so with him they’re obviously even better. That’s a big-time defensive day, especially at the end.”

Coach Lane Kiffin on the defense

Neither team could get much going offensively in the second half. Kentucky did get into the end zone, but after the break, Ole Miss could only manage a field goal. In the last two games, the Rebels have only managed that single field goal, combined, in the second half of those two wins.

First-half action

The game looked as if it could have been an offensive explosion midway through the first quarter.

After neither team could mount an initial sustained drive, Ole Miss began its second possession at its own 35. The Rebels drove 65 yards, highlighted by a 38-yard completion from Jaxson Dart to Jordan Watkins to put the ball at the Kentucky 4.

On the next play, Zach Evans blasted into the end zone and after the conversion by Jonathan Cruz, Ole Miss led 7-0.

Kentucky answered in a similar fashion on the ensuing drive. The Wildcats used a 30-yard completion from Will Levis to Barion Brown to get into Ole Miss territory. Unlike Kentucky, however, the Rebels’ defense made a stand and UK had to settle for a Matt Ruffalo field goal attempt that sailed wide right to preserve the Ole Miss lead.

The Rebels increased their lead soon after. Quinshon Judkins capped a six-play, 79-yard drive with a 48-yard scoring sprint right through the middle of the Kentucky defense. The conversion gave Ole Miss a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Judkins finished the game with 106 yards rushing, his third such performance in five weeks. He would have had four 100-yard games, but against Georgia Tech, he lost yardage trying to run out the clock and dropped below the century mark.

Brown threw a counter punch on the ensuing kickoff for Kentucky by returning it 85 yards to the Rebels’ 15. Chris Rodriguez, Jr., put Kentucky on the scoreboard on the last play of the period with a 10-yard touchdown run. The conversion was blocked by Damian Harris to put the score 14-6 heading into the second quarter.

After the next Ole Miss drive stalled, punter Fraser Masin pinned the Wildcats deep with a punt that was downed at the 1. That special team’s play resulted in points as Levis was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone as he was being pressured by Tavius Robinson and Cedric Johnson. The play resulted in a safety and a 16-6 Rebels’ lead.

Ole Miss added a field goal after the free kick. The Rebels were driving deep into Kentucky territory, but a penalty pushed them back and forced a fourth down. Cruz came on and nailed a 53-yarder to increase the lead to 19-6 midway through the second quarter.

 

Kentucky was able to close the gap late in the half. The Wildcats scored on a five-yard shuffle pass from Levis to Tayvion Robinson. But again, Kentucky had problems with the conversion as a bad snap kept the score 19-12.

That score held at the half.

Second-half action

The Ole Miss lead evaporated in the third quarter. Kentucky took possession of the ball after a stiff wind knocked down a Masin punt and the Wildcats took over in Ole Miss territory. Eight plays later, Jordan Dingle grabbed a pass from Levis and muscled his way into the end zone. Kentucky finally made a conversion, and the game was tied at 19.

Ole Miss regained the lead on the next possession. The Rebels rode Judkins’ running deep into Kentucky territory but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Cruz and a 22-19 lead to close out the third quarter.

On the first play of the final period, Kentucky faced a fourth down at the Ole Miss 32 and the Rebels’ defense held when Otis Reese broke up a pass to give Ole Miss possession.

The Rebels drove the ball down the field and facing a fourth down of its own at the Kentucky 5, Kiffin opted to go for the touchdown instead of a field goal and a Dart pass fell incomplete to keep the score 22-19.

That set the stage for the Rebels’ defense to save the game.

Coach Kiffin was asked if he was concerned about the fact the Rebels didn’t score in the second half.

“We’ll go back and watch the film,” he explained.

Obviously we did’t feel great at the end not to finish out. We did move the ball, we just didn’t finish drives there in the third quarter…and didn’t have a lot (of opportunities) because of the style they play with…You don’t get a lot of chances and you have to make the most of them.

Coach Kiffin

Dart finished 15-for-29 and 213 yards passing. Malik Heath has his first 100-yard receiving game since joining the team, grabbing six passes for an even 100 yards.

Defensively, Troy Brown and A.J. Finley had nine tackles each.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Kiffin said. “Excited to get back to it and excited to stay undefeated.

Ole Miss has its next opportunity to stay undefeated when the Rebels visit Vanderbilt next week.

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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