12:30 PM ET, September 17, 2005
Vanderbilt Stadium, NASHVILLE, TN
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Southeastern Conference's perennial losers now have plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Jay Cutler threw for 314 yards and ran for another 58, leading Vanderbilt to a 31-23 victory Saturday over Mississippi that made the Commodores 3-0 for the first time since 1984.
The Commodores, who haven't had a winning season since 1982 when Ronald Reagan was in his first term as president, ran over to the student section with their arms raised after snapping a five-game losing skid to Mississippi (1-1, 0-1 SEC).
The win also marks the first time Vanderbilt has started 2-0 in SEC play since 1956 when the Commodores beat Georgia and Alabama.
"Our guys won't be afraid to play anybody, but we know we have to play well to hang in there and we plan on doing that," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.
Jeff Jennings ran 24 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns, the last with 1:26 left to make it an eight-point game.
Ole Miss had one last chance with quarterback Micheal Spurlock trying to drive the Rebels, but he left the game after bending his left middle finger sideways while scrambling near midfield. Robert Lane came off the bench and got the Rebels to the Vanderbilt 16.
On third-and-5 with time running out, linebacker Moses Osemwegie knocked the ball from Lane's hands and recovered with 1 second left.
Cutler helped the Commodores control the clock for more 37 minutes, running 90 plays for 523 yards.
"Jay makes a great throw or a great run for a first down," Johnson said. "As an old defensive coordinator, I would hate (to face him)."
First-year Mississippi coach Ed Orgeron, who left his job as Southern California's defensive line coach to take over the Rebels, said he was disappointed with how his Rebels played.
"Anytime you give up 523 yards and all those points, it's hard to win a football game," he said. "We did not play well on defense. We missed tackles, we missed assignments. They ran the ball when they had to."
Vanderbilt came into its home opener after winning two road games and looked ready to rout the Rebels, leading 24-3 at half.
But Ole Miss scored 20 straight points in the second half and had a chance to tie the game after Mike Espy's 51-yard punt return for a touchdown. Ralph McKenzie blocked Will Moseley's extra point attempt with 8:20 left to preserve the 24-23 Vanderbilt lead.
The blocked attempt snapped the Rebels' streak of 120 consecutive extra points -- the longest active streak in the nation.
Ole Miss opened the game by driving 55 yards and going up 3-0 on Moseley's 30-yard field goal. Vanderbilt scored the next 24 points as Bryant Hahnfeldt kicked a 37-yard field goal, Jennings capped two drives with TD runs of 3 and 4 yards and Cassen Jackson-Garrison ran for a 7-yard TD with 11:07 left in the third.
The Rebels rallied with two touchdowns within a 3:30 span in the third quarter. Spurlock found Mario Hill for a 28-yard touchdown on fourth-and-6 with 8:50 left.
Kyle Keown's 27-yard punt left the Rebels at midfield, and two plays later Mario McSwain ran to his right and cut back across the field for a 53-yard touchdown, to make it 24-17.
The Commodores, fittingly, made it tough on themselves until the very end.
After the blocked extra point, Cutler moved the Commodores 78 yards in two plays down to the Ole Miss 2. But an intentional grounding penalty and a dropped pass in the end zone forced Vandy to attempt a 31-yarder by Hahnfeldt that was blocked by Corvelli Haynes.
Vandy's defense stopped the Rebels, and Cutler responded by driving the Commodores 64 yards in 11 plays before Jennings' final TD.
"We thought we would score more points," Cutler said. "We're unsatisfied with our play, but I guess that's a good thing.
"In any case, we're going to celebrate this win."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-15||11-18|
|4th Down Conversions||2-2||0-0|
|FG||9:52||WILL MOSELEY 30 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 55 yards.
|FG||2:55||BRYANT HAHNFELDT 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||12:43||JEFF JENNINGS 3 YD RUN (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||6:17||JEFF JENNINGS 4 YD RUN (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||11:07||CASSEN JACKSON-GARRISON 7 YD RUN (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||8:50||MARIO HILL 28 YD PASS FROM MICHEAL SPURLOCK (WILL MOSELEY KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||5:26||MICO MCSWAIN 53 YD RUN (WILL MOSELEY KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||8:20||MIKE ESPY 51 YD PUNT RETURN (BLOCKED XP)||23||24|
|TD||1:26||JEFF JENNINGS 1 YD RUN (BRYANT HAHNFELDT KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 64 yards.