FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Homecoming 1986

Jeff Herrod

Oct. 25, 2013

FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from the past. This week features the 1986 Homecoming game, which the Rebels won 21-20 over Southwestern Louisiana (now known as Louisiana-Lafayette), propelling Ole Miss to win six of its last seven games that year, including a 20-17 victory over Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl.

Rebels hang on for win; USL threat falls short

By George Willis, Commercial Appeal

October 19, 1986 

OXFORD, Miss. - For all but the final three minutes, the Ole Miss Rebels had their way with the Ragin' Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana yesterday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

But in those final three minutes, USL nearly spoiled the festive mood of homecoming by rallying from a 15-point deficit before losing, 21-20, when USL kicker Patrick Broussard missed a 59-yard field goal with 15 seconds left.

Broussard's last minute chance to give USL it's fifth straight victory came after the Cajun's returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, ran for a two-point conversion, threw a 36-yard touchdown pass and recovered an on-sides kick. All in the final three minutes.

"That was some unreal stuff," said Ole Miss linebacker Jeff Herrod. "I've never experienced nothing like that in my life. I was in a state of shock. I thought I was dreaming."

Broussard's unsuccessful kick came on second down with 21-seconds left and USL (4-2) without a time out. The Cajuns were at the Ole Miss 41, but elected to try for a field goal.

"I felt like Patrick could make it from there," said USL coach Nelson Stokley. "I didn't want to take a chance with no timeouts that we wouldn't give ourselves an opportunity to win."

Said Broussard, "Five more yards and it would have been good. I didn't put everything into it. If I had known how far it was, I maybe would have put a little more into it."

For USL to have had a chance to win the game is remarkable in itself. The Rebels (4-2-1), playing before an estimated crowd of 33,500 owned the Cajuns for all but the final three minutes.

Statistics proved the point. Ole Miss (4-2-1) outgained USL in yardage, 298-169, and first downs, 22-10. Time of possession also favored Ole Miss, 36:46 to 23:14. But mistakes had plagued the Rebels all day. They lost four fumbles and an interception. One of the fumbles, by fullback Tony Dentley, came at the USL goal line.

"I didn't think our mistakes would come back to haunt us, but I guess they did," said Ole Miss quarterback Mark Young.

Despite it's errors, Ole Miss had things under control in the third quarter, as Young threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Myers and scored on a 1-yard run to give the Rebels the 21-6 lead.

Howard Moss of Germantown intercepted two passes in the period, returning the second 38-yards to the Cajun 3 to set up Young's scoring run.

The lead stood through most of the fourth quarter. But with 3:05 left, USL's Chris Gannon blocked a Bill Smith punt. Teammate Joe DeForest scooped it up and ran 39 yards for the touchdown. Quarterback Brian Mitchell scrambled for the two-point conversion, chopping the Ole Miss lead to 21-14.

Ole Miss, looking to run out the clock on offense, couldn't. After a 38-yard punt by Smith, USL took over at the Ole Miss 36 and wasted no time finding the end zone.

Mitchell, playing for the injured Richard Pannell, dropped back and threw a long pass down the right sideline for wide receiver Willie Culpepper who had gotten behind Ole Miss defensive back Butch Davenport.

Culpepper made the catch in the end zone and USL trailed 21-20, with 1:17 left to play.

Preferring the lead rather than the tie, the Cajuns went for the two-point conversion. But Mitchell's pass sailed over the head of wide-open Glen Floyd into the arms of Ole Miss defender Stevon Moore. Though Ole Miss had dodged one bullet, the Rebels soon faced another when USL recovered an on-sides kick and took control on its 43 with 1:16 to play and no time outs.

On fourth-and-7, Mitchell hit Culpepper for a 14-yard gain to the Ole Miss 41. Mitchell then threw a pass out of bounds to stop the clock with 21 seconds showing. In trotted Broussard, who had seen a school record string of eight consecutive field goals end when he missed a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Broussard's kick was right down the middle, but a yard short.

"He had the leg to make it," Stokley said. "It just kind of died there at the end." Ole Miss players, though grateful for the win, were not satisfied with their effort.

"We've got to get the killer instinct," said Young, who completed 13-of-22 passes for 165 yards. "We got to learn to slam the door on people and not let them back in."

Said Moore, "Once you get a team with their nose stuck in the dirt, you shouldn't give them any air. And that's what we did. We should have beaten them bad."

Although Ole Miss was up, 7-6, at halftime, the lead should have been more. On their final two possessions of the half, the Rebels drove inside the Cajun 30 but came away with no points.

After a 47-yard drive stalled at the USL 27, Rebel kicker Bryan Owen entered for a 44-yard attempt. But holder David McKinney couldn't handle a low snap from center and the ball was smothered at the 36.

On Ole Miss's next series, the Rebels drove from their 32 to the USL 18. With just six seconds left in the half, Owen trotted in for a 35-yard attempt. But USL's Elton Slater darted in from the left side to block the kick.

Ole Miss, which gained 186 yards to USL's 64 in the first half, took a 7-0 lead when Young scored on a 5-yard option run late in the first quarter.

Broussard kicked field goals of 41 and 24 yards to trim the Rebel lead to 7-6.

Ole Miss is in Nashville Saturday afternoon for a Southeastern Conference game with Vanderbilt.

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