The usually stingy LSU defense spent much of Saturday afternoon watching red jerseys disappear.
Ole Miss put on an offensive clinic for three-plus quarters, piling up 423 yards on its first 66 plays and routinely beating the LSU secondary over the top for big plays.
Then came the time for a knockout blow.
But instead of allowing a bad day at the office to spiral into an embarrassing loss, the LSU defense stood its ground when the game was in the balance, making just enough plays to hold off Bo Wallace and the Rebels in a 41-35 victory.
“It’s just perseverance,” LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. “We know we have to get stops, and we know they’re coming. We’ve just got to hang in there and just buckle down and come to play when the play is called.”
LSU’s defense never came to play more than on Ole Miss’ penultimate possession.
With the score tied and the clock ticking toward five minutes, Wallace connected with Randall Mackey for a 37-yard gain, setting the Rebels up first-and-10 at the LSU 16 with a chance to take the lead with a touchdown or a field goal.
The next three plays were key in determining the outcome.
On first down, Carlos Davis was stopped by Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson for a 2-yard loss. The next play, Wallace was sacked by Johnson for an 11-yard loss.
Lavar Edwards sacked Wallace on third down, sending Ole Miss all the way back to the 36 with the 7-yard loss.
The Rebels still tried the field goal for the lead, but Bryson Rose misfired on the 53-yard attempt with 4:18 to play. LSU then marched to a Jeremy Hill touchdown run, punching in the go-ahead score with only 15 seconds left.
“We knew going into the series that the defense had to make a stand,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “It was a good stop for us as a unit to give the ball back to our offense and give them a chance to go down and get a score.”
The strong effort late helped the LSU defense escape a day filled with head-scratching lowlights.
Wallace gave Ole Miss the early lead when he raced 58 yards to a touchdown on a quarterback keeper, sparking a read-option ground game that would finish with 147 yards on 41 carries.
But most of the damage Wallace and the Rebels did came through the air.
Wallace connected on only 15 of 35 passes, but big plays against the young LSU secondary resulted in 310 passing yards. Receiver Donte Moncrief had six catches for 161 yards, including touchdown receptions of 56 and 30 yards.
“What we’ve got to do is, we’re going to spend six days between now and the next game working on pass defense,” Miles said. “This is the kind of film that will be truly beneficial.”
The 35 points were the most surrendered by an LSU defense since the last time Ole Miss came to town, a 43-36 Tigers win.
But it wasn’t enough for the Rebels to pull the upset.
“We had been in battles like this before, once against Texas A&M and then against Alabama,” defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “We had been there before. We knew what to expect and how to handle it.”