Ole Miss’ quest for an undefeated season became the latest dream to die in Tiger Stadium, and an LSU defensive effort that seemingly got better by the minute Saturday night, is the reason why.
After allowing just 206 total yards in the first half and 55 yards on Ole Miss’ opening possession of the second half, LSU gave up 52 yards on 27 snaps on their final six series as Tigers defenders came up with big play after big play.
They forced four consecutive three-and-outs — holding Ole Miss to a scant 7 yards on those 12 plays — and came up with two huge stops in the final two minutes to preserve a 10-7 victory.
“We responded well, and we knew what we had to do,” said LSU middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith, who made one of the key tackles of the game on a sneak by Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace with 1:44 to play. “We came out in the second half and made plays happen.”
In that 12-play stretch, Ole Miss had five plays for negative yards, two that went for no gain and there were four incompletions. Still, the best was yet to come for the Tigers on the Rebels’ final two last-gasp possessions.
On the first, Ole Miss quickly moved from its 32-yard line to the LSU 47 where it faced fourth-and-1. But three Tigers leaped over a pile of bodies to stop quarterback Bo Wallace cold when he tried to sneak for the first down.
Then, on the final possession, safety Ronald Martin intercepted Wallace’s desperation pass down the left sideline with 2 seconds left to secure the victory — touching off a wild celebration.
LSU cornerback Jalen Collins said the seeds for the performance were planted in the first half even though Ole Miss’ only score came on a 15-yard pass from Wallace to Cody Core late in the first quarter.
“Those first couple of drives, they didn’t really get much,” Collins said. “After that, we just tried to step on the gas and take it to them. Our preparation and having each other’s backs (was the key).”
In the end, Collins said, the Tigers were able to finish the job even though Ole Miss had two opportunities to tie or win.
“It was about our jobs and knowing what we were supposed to do and coming together,” he said. “We were sending pressure and covering up their receivers, staying with them down the field when (Wallace) was scrambling. It’s one of the great performances we’ve had.”
The Rebels couldn’t even catch the defense napping after expending so much energy in the second half.
On the quarterback sneak, Ole Miss tried to go on a quick count. But Wallace was met head-on by Beckwith and safeties Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams when he tried to launch himself over the pile.
Then, after Ole Miss forced a punt when LSU could only take 25 seconds off the clock — thanks to the Rebels using all three of their second-half timeouts — Wallace took aim at the Tigers one more time.
He completed a 12-yard pass to Markell Pack on third-and-8 to reach the Ole Miss 39, then went to leading receiver Laquon Treadwell for a 13-yard gain.
After an incompletion and a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Mills moved the ball to the Tigers’ 33, Wallace missed on another pass and then scrambled for an 8-yard gain before dancing out of bounds at LSU’s 25 to stop the clock with 9 seconds remaining.
At that point, Ole Miss was going to try a game-tying 42-yard field goal, but the Rebels had a false-start penalty that would have made the attempt by Gary Wunderlich 47 yards.
Instead, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze elected to send his offense back out, and Wallace’s pass toward the end zone for a streaking Core was intercepted by Martin.
“I felt like we had them where we wanted them. We just had to finish it off,” Beckwith said. “I think we did that.”