Ole Miss Holds Off LSU 25-23 To Win Magnolia Bowl Again
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Time ran out on No. 8 LSU before it could attempt a short, potential game-winning field goal and Dexter McCluster and Ole Miss survived a frantic final minute to come away with a 25-23 victory Saturday.
After LSU pulled within two points on Jordan Jefferson's touchdown pass to Rueben Randle with 1:17 left, the Tigers failed to convert the tying 2-point conversion on a fade pass into the corner of the end zone.
But LSU wasn't done.
Brandon LaFell recovered the ensuing kick at the LSU 42 and got his team into Ole Miss territory with a 26-yard reception that included two broken tackles and 20 yards after the catch.
But Ole Miss sacked Jefferson for a 9-yard loss, then snuffed out a screen pass, and left the Tigers with fourth-and-26 from the Ole Miss 48 with 9 seconds left after a timeout.
The Tigers could have - should have - had a lot more time. They wasted about 17 seconds before calling a timeout after the third-down play.
After the timeout, Jefferson hit Toliver on a 43-yard in traffic pass down the right side to the 6 and the team rushed down the field. There appeared to be confusion among the chain gang and it took several seconds for the first-down marker to be placed.
LSU did not send out its field goal team and was not completely lined up when the referee signaled for the clock to start and Jefferson had no options as the time expired before he could spike the ball.
The win likely gives Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3) second place in the SEC West with a game left to play, and an edge over LSU (8-3, 4-3) when bowl invitations are handed out.
Before the craziness at the end, McCluster was the story. He ran for 148 yards and passed for a touchdown, a 27-yarder to wide-open Shay Hodge for the first completion of his career midway through the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss' second straight win over its traditional rival turned out to be one of the most exciting games in the series. The Rebels' defense shut down the Tigers much of the second half and appeared to earn the win after grinding out a 15-play drive that consumed 8:26 and ended in a short field goal that gave them an eight-point lead.
But Jefferson - stifled most of the game by Ole Miss' aggressive pass defense - took the ball with a little more than 3:32 left and directed a 10-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard pass to Randle, the receiver's second of the game, to make it 25-23.
The Tigers went for the 2-point conversion to tie the game and got a pass interference call on Cassius Vaughn on a fade into the left corner of the end zone. Jefferson tried the same pass on the second attempt, but Kendrick Lewis hurried him and Toliver stepped out of bounds as both Vaughn and the ball arrived.
When it was finally over, Ole Miss fans rushed the field to celebrate with the Rebels while LSU players dropped their helmets to the field in dismay.
It was the first time Ole Miss beat LSU in consecutive seasons since 1997-99.
Hodge had seven catches for 117 yards, tying the school record for 100-yard games in a season.
Jefferson completed 19 of 37 passes for 250 yards and Toliver had five catches for 107 yards.
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