FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Ole Miss - Vanderbilt 2004

Jonathan Nichols

Nov. 9, 2012

FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week features the Rebels' 26-23 overtime win over Vanderbilt in 2004. 

Nichols Redeems Himself as Rebs Post First Win

Ole Miss 26, Vanderbilt 23 (OT)

By Marlon W. Morgan

Commercial Appeal

OXFORD, Miss. – Jonathan Nichols missed just three field goals last year, a year in which he won the Lou Groza Award given annually to the nation’s top collegiate place kicker.

After two misses, including one which would have given Ole Miss a win over Vanderbilt in regulation Saturday, Nichols found himself staring at three missed field goals in three games.

But what made Nichols a premiere kicker was his ability to come through in the clutch.  So after missing a 36-yarder in the second quarter and a 50-yarder with six seconds remaining in regulation, the Senior looked forward to redeeming himself. 

Nichols drilled a 35-yarder into the wind that capped 16 unanswered points by Ole Miss as the Rebels (1-2 overall, 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) won for the first time this season, 26-23, in front of 55,824 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“I know I missed two field goals, but I felt wonderful out there today,” Nichols said. “I had been hitting the ball great, probably the best I felt in a game this year.”

“I knew if I got another shot, I was going to nail it.  I wasn’t going to let two get away from me like that.”

Last year, the Rebels needed a 54-yard field goal from Nichols to beat the Commodores in Nashville.

The celebration that took place at midfield after Nichols’s kick showed what a much-needed win this was for the Rebels, who were 0-2 for the first time since 1987.

“It was a big monkey off our back with that win,” said tailback Vashon Pearson, who had his first career 100-yard game with 11.  “Everybody was kind of nervous and didn’t know how the season was going to turn out.  We needed that win.”

The Rebels appeared headed for a 0-3 start when Vandy took a 23-10 lead midway through the third quarter.  The defense was having a hard time containing quarterback Jay Cutler, who was running the option to perfection.

Through three quarters, Cutler had 57 yards rushing on 16 carries and had completed 8-of-11 passes for another 126 yards and a touchdown.

Ole Miss’ defense finally got things figured out in the fourth quarter.  The rest of the game, Cutler ran six times for three yards and completed 1-of-6 passes for five yards.

Vandy led 23-13 early in the fourth when the momentum changed.  With the Commodores taking over on their own 18, Cutler threw a deep pass into double coverage that was intercepted by sophomore Trumaine McBride.  McBride returned it to Vandy’s 39, then picked up an additional 15 on a Vandy late hit.

"That got everybody hyped, energized, and ready to make plays,” McBride said.

A rejuvenated Ole Miss wasted no time capitalizing; scoring in four plays on Lorenzo Townsend’s 3-yard touchdown run.

A fired up Rebels defense came up huge again on Vandy’s next possession, stopping Cutler short of a first down on a fourth-and-4 play from Ole Miss’s 30.  The Rebels drove down and tied the game on a 34-yard field goal by Nichols with 2:23 remaining.

After Nichols’ missed 50-yarder, the Commodores received the ball first in overtime.  But four straight incompletions by Cutler gave the Rebels a shot at victory.

Vandy (0-2, 0-1) missed out on a chance to end its road losing streak, which now stands at 14 games.

“We felt it was going our way the whole game,” Cutler said.  “We had the momentum and were moving the ball well.  The defense was playing well.  It was the same old same old. We have got to find a way to win in the fourth quarter.”

“Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Ethan Flatt, making his first career start, was 21-of-32 for 187 yards.  He led the Rebels to a season high total of 365 yards.  Michael Spurlock, who started the first two games, played one series, completing 2-of-3 passes for eight yards.

Vandy running back Norval McKenzie had 99 yards on 15 carries.

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