Ole Miss outlasts LSU in wild offensive shootout

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, September 30, 2023

OXFORD (AP) — Defense was optional. Excitement mandatory.

Jaxson Dart threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tre Harris with 39 seconds remaining, and No. 20 Ole Miss rallied from a two-score deficit late in the fourth quarter to get No. 13 LSU 55-49 in a wild offensive shootout on Saturday night.

Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) survived a final play incomplete pass to the end zone from the 25-yard line by LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. The ball sailed slightly above receiver Chris Hilton Jr., who was sandwiched between two Rebel defenders, and tipped off his hands.

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“I’ll tell you my story line. We’re down two scores in the fourth quarter and it would have been easy to give in,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “We get two stops, drive the field twice, no fluke plays, 700 plus yards, no turnovers, score (twice) and win this game. So proud.”

The teams combined for 1,343 yards of total offense, 14 touchdowns, two late lead changes and strong individual performances from both quarterbacks. The 104 points were the most ever in 112 games between the teams, in a series that began in 1894.

Dart, who threw four TD passes and rushed for another score, finished 26-of-39 for 389 yards. He ran for 50 yards and successfully rallied the Rebels from a 49-40 deficit in the final 8:34, one week after a disappointing loss to Alabama.

LSU (3-2, 2-1) was led by Daniels, who finished 27-of-36 for 414 yards and four touchdowns, including scoring passes of 11, 20 and 34 yards to Brian Thomas Jr. Daniels rushed for 99 yards as the Tigers wiped out a 28-14 first-half deficit before blowing a late nine-point lead and losing.

Thomas finished with eight receptions for 124 yards, and Malik Nabers had eight for 102 yards. Logan Diggs also rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Ole Miss led 31-28 at halftime as the teams combined for 760 yards of offense, were 3-of-3 apiece in the red zone and averaged more than 9 yards per play.

“Obviously, very difficult loss,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “Angry, disappointing –— I can’t give you all the adjectives. Hats off to Ole Miss, but I expect our kids to respond to this the right way. They play for LSU and they know that’s not the standard here.”

The Rebels won on an 88-yard drive that lasted less than two minutes, capped by a Dart-to-Harris TD pass. Dart was 3-of-3 on the drive for 54 yards as the Rebels capped a total offense performance of 706 yards. Quinshon Judkins finished with 33 carries for 177 rushing yards and a touchdown and Ulysses Bentley IV had 90 yards and one TD.

Harris caught eight passes for 153 yards, and Jordan Watkins had five receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.

“We had an overwhelming amount of confidence in the huddle before the game-winning drive,” Dart said. “I understand this is a legacy game for me. Will I ever forget it? Hell no, it was the funnest moment of my life.”

The signature win during Kiffin’s tenure could not have come at a better time. The Rebels were coming off a loss at Alabama, and a similar occurrence last season sent Ole Miss into a four-game losing streak late in the season. The impressive bounce back performance in a high-stakes game kept alive the Rebels’ SEC West championship dreams.

Ole Miss hosts Arkansas next week, and LSU is at Missouri.

“We took a lot of criticism, heard a lot of criticism for what happened at Alabama last week and that’s good,” Kiffin said. “We heard it. We really responded well in practice, we really responded tonight. Sometimes a loss can help you.”