Rebels regroup for Egg Bowl

Published 12:03 pm Monday, November 22, 2010

BATON ROUGE, La. — There was drama, controversy and even a near-miss hail mary in Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and LSU.

This time, though, the team scrambling for answers after it lost was wearing red and blue, instead of purple and gold.

Ole Miss’ 43-36 loss in Tiger Stadium officially ended the Rebels’ quest for a third straight bowl bid. It’ll have to settle for the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State this Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and building momentum heading into the offseason.

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“I’ve been looking forward to this one,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.

The Rebels, at least, are coming into the Egg Bowl after playing what Nutt called “by far” their best game of the season. Despite giving up more than 40 points for the second straight week, the Rebels went toe-to-toe with the fifth-ranked Tigers in their own house.

The teams traded the lead five times in the fourth quarter alone, and combined for 890 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was 15-of-23 passing for 177 yards and a touchdown, and added 64 yards and two scores on the ground. Running back Brandon Bolden had 91 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and, as a team, the Rebels ran for 236 yards. Ole Miss also converted four fourth-down attempts, all of which led to scores.

“I’ll take this night,” Nutt said. “This is a night where you like the way they played and you like the way they competed. They laid their hearts out there tonight, and that is what I will go to sleep with tonight. I don’t like losing, especially when I thought we had it won with that last touchdown.”

That “last touchdown” is one that will be talked about often in this historic rivalry — perhaps as much as the half-dozen games decided by a field goal in the last 12 years, or LSU’s infamous clock-bungling finale in 2009.

With 4:57 left in the game, Masoli threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Markeith Summers that gave the Rebels a 36-35 lead. Summers, however, dove into the end zone and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The 15-yard penalty forced Ole Miss to kick off from its own 15, LSU’s Patrick Peterson returned it to midfield, and the Tigers rolled down the field for Stevan Ridley’s go-ahead touchdown run with 44 seconds left.

“What I was seeing was the guy was coming. I ran to the pylon so I wouldn’t get pushed out,” Summers said. “I’m still surprised. I still don’t know why they flagged me. I guess he said that I tried to flip, but I wasn’t trying to flip. I was just diving to the end zone.”

Summers wasn’t the only one surprised — and annoyed — by the call.

“If the guy is near him, I’ve seen the call go either way,” Nutt said. “I don’t like that call. I don’t like what (Summers) did. Be consistent with that call.”

Ole Miss had one last chance after Ridley’s score. Masoli threw a long hail mary that was tipped and fell incomplete around the 35-yard line with 3 seconds left. Another hail mary on fourth down was intercepted by Peterson as time expired.

The finish invoked memories of the 2009 Ole Miss-LSU game in Oxford. LSU completed a hail mary to the 5-yard line with 1 second left, but was unable to get another play off and lost 25-23.

This time, the team on the wrong end was Ole Miss. It lost for the fifth time in six games, and gave up at least 38 points in its third consecutive SEC contest. Even so, it was better than the previous week, when Tennessee shredded the Rebels and cruised to a 52-14 victory. After a week of dejection, this loss at least offered a glimmer of hope.

“If everybody keeps on doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be fine,” Bolden said.