OXFORD, Miss. - Senior night is typically a cause for celebration and a chance to recognize the accomplishments of a departing senior class playing in its final home game.
Saturday, however, was only the next in a line of forgettable games for Ole Miss this season. The Rebels were easily beaten by top-ranked LSU, 52-3.
The final margin was Ole Miss’ worst loss ever to LSU, and the largest margin of defeat to any team for the Rebels since 1974.
“They’re a really good football team,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, coaching in his last game inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, said. Nutt was dismissed as head coach Nov. 7.
The Rebels (2-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) travel to Mississippi State next week for the annual “Battle of the Golden Egg,” a game played by bitter in-state rivals to end the regular season. Mississippi State has won the past two meetings.
No more games after that, at least not for Ole Miss. The Rebels have now lost 13 straight SEC games. Their last conference win was Oct. 2, 2010 against Kentucky.
“That’s all you got to play for now,” senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, a native of Hahnville said. “That’s the only place you can leave your stamp, you can leave your mark on. You got to go out with a bang. We’re going to try to do that.”
Ole Miss struggled in every facet against LSU, encompassing a season the Rebels and their fans would rather forget. LSU held its 49-point lead with five minutes left in the game. The Tigers were threatening for more points with a first-and-goal at the Ole Miss 1-yard line.
Tigers coach Les Miles opted to call for four straight kneel-downs.
“Les is just trying to be nice right there, and I appreciate it,” Nutt said. “It doesn’t make you feel good. But I appreciate Les. Les is a good man. He understands.”
On the third play of the game, after consecutive incompletions, quarterback Zack Stoudt was intercepted by LSU defensive back Ron Brooks, who returned the interception for a touchdown.
Not even 20 seconds in, Ole Miss trailed by seven. The top-ranked Tigers needed no more, but they piled on. Ole Miss had nothing to offer LSU (11-0, 6-0 SEC). The Rebels were overmatched by a methodical LSU offense and a dominating LSU defense.
“The outcome is embarrassing,” Lockett said. “It’s happened before. It wasn’t nothing that we’re completely oblivious to. It ain’t nothing to live with. You’ve got to just work at it and try to prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, we only have one game to do that with.”
Stoudt started in place of suspended starter Randall Mackey. He was pulled in favor of Barry Brunetti late in the first quarter and Ole Miss trailing by 21. Brunetti fared no better. He finished the game 5-of-10 for 30 yards. He did have 74 rushing yards to lead the team.
After starting the team’s season-opening loss to BYU, Brunetti had played all of one snap before Saturday.
“I prepare myself every week,” Brunetti said. “Kind of during practice, I didn’t get very many reps, but I still studied. I studied on my own. I prepare myself every week.”
Senior running back Brandon Bolden, a former Scotlandville standout, had 58 rushing yards on 13 carries in the last home game of his Ole Miss career. Bolden started the game - his third start of the season - in place of suspended running back Jeff Scott, who leads the team in rushing.
Bolden, a team captain, failed to show for the postgame news conference. He is fourth on the Ole Miss career rushing list with 2,543 yards.
“Brandon’s a guy of many different facets,” Lockett said. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run the ball, he can be a shifty runner, he can be power runner and he can even jump over you from time to time. The guy’s a guy of many hats. He can do whatever he pleases on the field. Once he gets to going, he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Bolden has played in nine of 11 games this season; this from a player who combined to start 19 games in the past two seasons, including 11 starts in 12 games a year ago, when he finished 24 yards short of a 1,000-yard season.
Bolden fractured his ankle in the Rebels’ season-opening loss to BYU. He missed just one game, against Southern Illinois, but struggled all season to regain the form of his previous three seasons.
“You could tell,” Lockett said. “But at times you could tell the actual football and the hunger and his competitive nature was coming out and overcoming the pain.”