The upset bid fell short, as No. 9 Texas A&M hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to win 41-38 over Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
"Obviously we are very disappointed for our kids," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "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 play and didn't, and they did. There were a lot of things that could have happened but didn't."
The Rebels (3-3, 1-3) took a 38-31 lead with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Bo Wallace hit Jaylen Walton on a wheel route down the Ole Miss sideline that went 50 yards for a touchdown.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) answered right back and tied the game at 38-38, then after its defense forced a three-and-out, Manziel orchestrated another drive, capped by the game-winning field goal.
"We were up in the game, and at that point, the game should have been over," safety Cody Prewitt said. "That's on the defense. We made too mistakes and didn't tackle well in the first half. They made plays where we didn't."
In the shootout, the Ole Miss offense had five passing touchdowns, three by Wallace and two by Barry Brunetti. They completed passes to nine different receivers, led by Laquon Treadwell, who a caught a team-high eight passes for 77 yards and his first two career touchdowns.
Wallace completed 22-of-36 passes for 301 yards, his second-straight 300-yard passing game, giving him five for his career, which is second in school history behind Eli Manning. And Brunetti, who had previously thrown just one career touchdown pass, completed 3-of-4 passes for 28 yards and his first two touchdown passes of the season.
Then, on the other sideline, the story for Texas A&M was Manziel, who led the Southeastern Conference and ranked sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 360.6 yards per game. On Saturday, he completed 31-of-39 passes for 346 yards and rushed for 113 yards. He finished with two total touchdowns, both on the ground, including the game-tying touchdown.
"It's extremely hard to contain him," Prewitt said. "We had a great scheme lined up, and he was still able to make plays. He's a tremendous athlete. The way he extends plays really takes a toll on you. That was the biggest thing. Even though the coverage was fine, he was able to make plays where not many people could."
"He's a beast," said Brunetti of Manziel. "He's just good. He's a different type of dude. I have never played against a guy like that. We knew going into the game that A&M had a great offense. We knew we had to score, but we also knew our defense would step up, and they did. They stepped up. Manziel is a good player, and A&M has a great offense."
And the Ole Miss defense stepped up with two big second-half turnovers, which gave the Rebels a chance. Leading 21-17 late in the third quarter, Texas A&M was driving at the Ole Miss 10-yard line, then Keith Lewis intercepted a Manziel pass in the end zone.
After a Texas A&M field goal and a game-tying Ole Miss touchdown, Serderius Bryant forced a Manziel fumble, which Trae Elston recovered. Three plays later, the Rebels took their first lead of the game on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Treadwell.
"I thought the plan we had worked, and gave us a chance," Freeze said. "We want to formulate a plan that gives us a chance in the fourth quarter to win the football game. We had the ball and had a chance. We didn't get it done."
Ole Miss continues its six-game home stand as it welcomes No. 10 LSU next Saturday with a kickoff set for 6 p.m. The Tigers improved to 6-1 and 3-1 in SEC play on Saturday with a 17-6 win over Florida.
"It's hard to bounce back," Brunetti said. "We got to try to get these young guys to bounce back because they haven't been through this. Most of the older guys like me, we have been through it when things weren't good. We can bounce back. We have a long season and a lot to play for."