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Recap: Vanderbilt Puts Scare Into Rebels, But Fall Short in the End

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Vanderbilt as a program showed significant signs of improvement tonight, but they fell short in their upset bid.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into today, both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss came into the game looking to build off of the momentum created last week in two big wins. Ole Miss beat Alabama in thrilling fashion (Did someone order the Chad Kelly Special) while Vanderbilt beat Austin Peay in what turned out to be a blowout, a historic one at that. Prior to tonight's kickoff, I am sure I am not alone in enjoying the pure joy of watching tennessee blow that game against Florida.

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt played what was a tough, grind it out defensive game that no one was expecting as they took their seats for tonight's game. Ole Miss scored late to make the final score 27-16, but the game came down to the wire, with the Vanderbilt offense just not being able to make the plays necessary in the end.

With Nigel Bowden out and not taking the trip with the team to Oxford, RS Freshman Khari Blasingame was forced to start in his place. He did an outstanding job against this Ole Miss offense that lit up Alabama just one week ago. The intensity Coach Mason has instilled in this team going forward is one that has paid immediate dividends, as this unit was able to hold Ole Miss to 27 points, and at several points would go the extra mile so many other teams don't when it came to stopping the Rebels at the goal line.

Offensively, starting QB Johnny McCrary continues to improve as both a passer and a decision maker, so much that the announcers during tonight's game referred to him as a "game manager" at one point because he was not afraid to check down and live for another play like he had been before. McCrary ended up going 23-42, throwing for 194 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Leading the way for the Commodores in receiving was TE Steven Scheu, who had 5 catches for 57 yards, including several crucial catches that kept drives alive and created momentum for this offense. Trent Sherfield followed up last weekend's record-breaking performance with a 7 catch day, and Caleb Scott added 5 catches of his own as well.

It became clear throughout the game that Coach Ludwig was attempting to open up the field with the perimeter passing game in order to setup the inside run game with Ralph Webb. Webb finished the night with 23 carries for 90 yards, including an electrifying 43 yard scamper that set up the Commodores in Rebel territory. This offense suffered with something that several teams have struggled with to begin the season, and that is scoring touchdowns in the redzone, rather than settling for field goals.

Oren Burks and Jahmel McIntosh each had an interception, the first two turnovers forced by this Commodores so far this season. Burks came in the first quarter, and set Chad Kelly back in his "Heisman" race (It's September, y'all)  Jahmel's came in the 4th quarter, and set up the Commodores deep in Rebel territory with a chance to take the lead, but they were forced to attempt a FG (Openshaw's only miss of the day) and just like that, the Rebels had regained the momentum. Ole Miss tried to use the tempo to get this defense tired, and while it worked in the end, the first three quarters plus this defense showed they have the depth and talent to compete in the SEC. As the game went on, the defense started to put ore pressure on Chad Kelly, and that resulted in some huge sacks and TFL's that helped keep the game close.

Something to look at more going forward: Vanderbilt winning the time of possession battle. If they can continue to do that going forward, this team has the chance to hurt some people's feelings in October and November. I wouldn't want to face this defense, especially when Nigel Bowden comes back healthy.

Looking forward, next week Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2) takes a break from SEC play and takes on Middle Tennessee State on the road on Saturday at 7 p.m. Ole Miss (4-0, 2-0) heads to Florida for a battle between unbeatens at the Swamp.

After the game, we got word of some breaking recruiting news regarding a new commit. Keep it tuned here at AoG for the latest tomorrow! #AnchorDown