Oct. 18, 2013
FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week features the Rebels' 25-23 victory over No. 8 LSU in 2009 when the Tigers ran out of time in the final moments of a classic finish in the Magnolia Bowl rivalry.
LSU cold-clocked: Rebels hang on as time runs out for Tigers
By Ron Higgins, Commercial Appeal
November 22, 2009
OXFORD, Miss. - One Mi-ss-i-ss-i-pp-i become won Mississippi, but how long can one second be?
Especially when it’s the very last tick of a typically classic Ole Miss-LSU game that will surely enter the storybook with the rest of the memorable Rebels-Tigers battles.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson couldn’t beat the clock, failing to ground the ball on first down at the Ole Miss 5 as time expired to preserve the Rebels’ 25-23 victory on Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that they almost gave away a couple times.
From the Ole Miss sideline where coach Houston Nutt’s stomach was turning flips, to the press box where defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was sweating bullets, it seemed like everybody dressed in red and blue was screaming “Start the clock!” after Jefferson completed a fourth-down 43-yard Hail Mary heave to Terrance Toliver with that one stinkin’ second left.
“I know I was yelling ‘start the clock!’” said Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster, who stunned LSU by completing his first pass of his career, a 27-yarder to Shay Hodge that gave Ole Miss a 22-17 lead with 13:33 left to play. “That last second seemed like an eternity. I thought the clock should have already run down.”
Nutt, who has been a master throughout his coaching career – especially at Arkansas- of pulling out miraculous victories over LSU, was running up and down the sideline.
“I just wanted to make sure we had 11 players on the field,” Nutt said.
Upstairs in the Ole Miss coaching booth, Nix stared down at the mayhem unfolding before him and said a prayer.
“I was like ‘Lord, please let us win this game,’” Nix said. “When I saw zeroes, I said ‘Coaches, it’s over, I’m gone.’”
Just as giddy as the Rebels and their fans were Capital One bowl officials, who strongly hinted that the 8-3 Rebels (4-3 in the Western Division) are the leader in the clubhouse to get the SEC invitation to the Jan. 1 bowl in Orlando and take on a Big Ten opponent. LSU, also 8-3 and 4-3, dropped into Cotton Bowl or Chick-fil-A Bowl consideration.
The Rebels put themselves in this position with their fifth victory in their last six games. And they did it surviving a series of near-misses in the first three quarters on Saturday, starting off with two correct officiating calls - a clipping penalty and an illegal touching infraction – that took a pair of Ole Miss touchdowns off the scoreboard in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Even with all that, LSU led just 17-15 at the end of the third quarter and it was looking shakier by the moment for the Tigers. Ole Miss finally flipped field position when Tyler Campbell’s 41-yard punt was downed at the LSU 1.
So when LSU punted a few plays later, Ole Miss just had to navigate 44 yards for the go-ahead score. It came on a perfect second-and-4 play call at the LSU 27 by Rebels’ offensive coordinator Kent Austin, a handoff to McCluster that started as a sweep around right end.
Instead, McCluster pulled up and threw a TD pass to Hodge, who was all alone and hoping that McCluster wouldn’t short arm the throw.
“He did throw it kind of soft,” Hodge said, “I was thinking, ‘Just get here ball.’”
It did, but the game was far from over, even after a subsequent 60-yard Ole Miss drive produced a 23-yard Joshua Shene field goal for a 25-17 lead with 3:42 left.
That was enough time for LSU to drive 66 yards for Jefferson’s 25-yard TD pass to Reuben Randle with 1:17 left, then fall twice on a game-tying two-point conversion pass (the first was defensive pass interference) to Toliver.
It appeared that Ole Miss was out of the woods, but a perfectly executed onside kick by LSU’s Josh Jasper was recovered by the Tigers’ Brandon LaFell at the LSU 42 with 1:16 left.
Two plays later after a 26-yard Jefferson screen pass to LaFell, LSU was in field goal range for Jasper, who had made a 50-yarder in the second quarter.
Instead, LSU coach Les Miles, armed with two time outs, chose to keep throwing and he paid dearly. Jefferson was sacked for a 9-yard loss to the Ole Miss 32 and Miles called time out with 32 seconds left.
That was followed by Jefferson’s third-down pass to Stevan Ridley resulting in a 7-yard loss to the Ole Miss 48. Ridley was whistled down with 26 seconds left, yet Miles didn’t call a time out until there were nine seconds.
“Management at the back end was the issue, and it’s my fault we didn’t finish first in that game,” Miles said. “We didn’t know the time out hadn’t been called, and the seconds that ticked off certainly made a difference.”