Red zone issues plague Rebels in overtime loss to Vanderbilt

Posted on Nov 18 2018 - 2:05pm by Flint Christian

Ole Miss lost to Vanderbilt 36-29 in overtime on Saturday night in Nashville, in a game that saw the Rebels outgain the Commodores 578 yards 2to 387.

Missed opportunities, specifically in the red zone, plagued the Rebels all night in Nashville. In six trips to the red zone in regulation, Ole Miss kicked five field goals, but scored just one touchdown. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter at the Vanderbilt 23- and 33-yard line.

The Rebels still had an opportunity to win the game in regulation after a defensive stand gave the offense the ball with 1:41 and three timeouts remaining on the Rebels’ 39-yard line. Ole Miss drove down the field before facing a fourth-and-one on the Vanderbilt 15-yard line. Head coach Matt Luke opted for a field goal to send the game into overtime, which Luke Logan converted.

In overtime, Vanderbilt started with the ball and only took three plays to score a touchdown. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the celebration gave the Rebels excellent field position at the Vanderbilt 12-yard line, only needing a touchdown to tie.

Facing a third-and-six, Ta’amu threw the ball into the far right corner of the endzone intended for A.J. Brown. Brown rose up and grabbed the ball with both hands before tucking it into his body as he fell to the ground. However, as Brown hit the ground, he extended his arm away from his body, where the Vanderbilt defensive back took it away from Brown’s possession.

After initially being ruled a touchdown, the officials overturned the call following a lengthy review. An incomplete pass on fourth down sealed the loss for Ole Miss on the ensuing play.

While missed opportunities came under a harsher spotlight at the end of the game, the Rebels missed chances to build a lead all night. On the first drive of the game, Isaiah Woullard was stuffed on a fourth-and-one at the Vanderbilt 48-yard line.

The Ole Miss defense would then force three straight Vanderbilt punts, but the Ole Miss offense couldn’t capitalize on two long drives into the red zones. They had to settle for two short field goals before A.J. Brown turned a short pass on the next drive into an 84-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead with 9:41 left in the first half.

Vanderbilt went on to score 12 points in the final six minutes of the half, including a blocked punt that went out of the back of the endzone for a safety, to make it 13-12 going into halftime.

The Ole Miss receiving core displayed its talent and kept the offense running on multiple occasions. Brown, Ole Miss’ all-time leader in career receiving yards, added to his total with 212 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions.

Lodge picked up 117 yards and one touchdown on 9 receptions, including a one-handed, highlight-reel touchdown snag in the fourth quarter and another clutch, sideline reception on third down during the Rebels’ final drive in regulation.

Ta’amu also racked up 457 passing yards and two touchdowns while averaging 9 yards per attempt. On the other side of the ball, the Ole Miss defense held tight for most of the game. They held Vanderbilt to 3 of 13 on third downs and an average of only 5.5 yards per pass attempt.

The Rebels will face Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in Oxford. They will have the opportunity to go 6-6 for the second consecutive year.