Aug 30, 2013
Up one minute and down the next. The ebb and flow of Thursday's game kept everyone in attendance on the edge of their seat - if not on their feet - and football fans across the country tuned in to watch the college football game being played on West End Avenue.
The final outcome was forgettable for Commodore fans, but the atmosphere and overall excitement of the game will be remembered for years to come. The game marked Vanderbilt's first sellout for a season opener since 1996 when the Commodores hosted Notre Dame, and the product on the field did not disappoint. The two teams combined for 74 points and four lead changes. The 74 combined points scored were the most in an SEC game for the Commodores since 2005 when they fell 48-43 to Kentucky.
What began as a sloppy game after two miscues by the Commodores, turned into an all-time classic slugfest with each team taking their best shots. First it was Ole Miss jumping out to a 10-0 advantage. Vanderbilt answered with 21 straight points before Ole Miss rallied by scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions to retake the lead.
After each team was forced to punt on their next possessions, Vanderbilt regained momentum - albeit for a short time - as Austyn Carta-Samuels found Steven Scheu wide open for a 34-yard touchdown with 1:30 remaining on the clock.
The score put the stadium into a frenzy, but as quickly as the crowd erupted, it went deafly silent. Just two offensive snaps later, the Rebels were back on top with a 75-yard touchdown run. Vanderbilt would get one last try, but an interception ended the game. Ole Miss proceeded to take a knee and the final whistle sounded.
The game had ended, and finally everyone's heartbeat could return to its regular pace, but any fan of college football not wearing Ole Miss crimson and blue would have rather just stayed on the roller coaster a little longer.
Matthews Goes Off ... Again
Jordan Matthews had four catches for 105 yards and one touchdown and there was still 10:18 to play in the first half. Yeah, it was just another night at the office for the All-SEC wideout. The senior was nearly unstoppable Thursday night, finishing with 10 catches for a career-high 178 yards and one touchdown.
It was the 11th time Matthews has topped 100 yards receiving and ninth time against an SEC opponent. Matthews has now exceeded 100 yards in four of his last five games.
Matthews was also responsible for a number of big plays. He caught a screen pass and took it 55 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Four of Matthews' 10 catches came on third or fourth down and resulted in a first down. The biggest one of all led to Vanderbilt's go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes.
With Vanderbilt facing a fourth-and-18, at its own 24-yard line, Austyn Carta Samuels looked deep for Matthews, who hauled in a 42-yard pass. On the next play, Carta-Samuels connected with Steven Scheu for a 34-yard touchdown.
"Everyone in the stadium knew who it was going to on that play," Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze said. "We had two on him but we have to clean up our technique if we are going to do that. He is a heck of a player; you got to give him credit. He gets in and out of breaks as well as anyone I've seen, but we still need to execute and make that play."
Win Streak Ends
Vanderbilt entered the season with the nation's fourth longest win streak at seven games. The streak came to an end with Thursday's loss, but it will still go down as one of the best streaks in school history. There have been only nine streaks in school history that have spanned longer than Vanderbilt's, which dated back to Oct. 15.
The seven-game win streak was the longest by the Commodores since winning eight straight in 1948.
Vanderbilt was able to put pressure on Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace throughout Thursday's game. The Commodores sacked Wallace four times and hurried him three additional times. Just getting to Wallace can be a challenge given Ole Miss' short passing game, which prevents teams from having much time to even get a hand on the quarterback.
But Ole Miss' spread attack did not keep the Commodores from getting into the backfield. Kyle Woestmann led the way with two sacks. Darreon Herring and Stephen Weatherly also added sacks.
"The D line did a great job," defensive end Walker May said. "I had fun watching them add some great pressures. It was fun to watch."
In an effort to get more pressure on the quarterback, Vanderbilt even instituted a package that included four defensive linemen at times with Caleb Azubike, May, Weatherly and Woestmann all manning the line at once.
"It just gives us a little more speed," defensive end Walker May said. "We just try to get off the ball and disrupt the quarterback and get him off his spot."