Barca Blog - Responding to the challenge

Sept. 22, 2008

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(Photo by Stan Jones)

For 53 seconds on Saturday, Ole Miss had the Commodores on the ropes, looking for a knock-out punch. The Rebels scored 17 points in the blink of an eye, and Vanderbilt was facing an uphilll battle in a hostile road environment.

The Commodores responded to the challenge and held Mississippi scoreless for the rest of the game, earning their fourth win of the season and a No. 21 national ranking -- the first time since 1984.

Junior quarterback Mackenzi Adams can remember the other side of the coin.

Vanderbilt would stand toe-to-toe with the best in the country, but in the end, a play or two would cause the squad to come up short on the scoreboard.

Adams found himself in a similar situation at Ole Miss Saturday night when he replaced Chris Nickson, who exited the game with an injury in the third quarter.

You see, back in 2006, Adams tried to engineer a comeback in Oxford with Vanderbilt trailing 14-7 in the final minute. Adams drove the Commodores to the Rebels 22 before throwing an interception to end the game. It was the first time Adams had seen extended action on the field in his career (Nickson had left in the second quarter with an ankle injury).

"I got some good experience in that game," Adams recalled, "but I wasn't really developed as a quarterback yet. I didn't know exactly what I was doing."

This time around, Adams and the rest of the Commodores took matters into their own hands.

Holding a three-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, it looked like Vanderbilt would relinquish the lead to Ole Miss until redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Marve forced a game-changing fumble at the two-yard line to give the Commodores the football back.

The offense knew they had to at least get field position back and maybe even put points on the board.

As Adams entered the huddle, he could see the confidence in his fellow teammates.

"We were pumped and everyone was ready to go down and win," Adams said. "We just kept saying 4-0 in the huddle."

On the very first play from their own 20, Adams ripped off a 17-yard rush, followed by junior Jared Hawkins' 40-yard burst to the Ole Miss 23. The Commodores ran three more plays before senior placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt nailed a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to six with 31 seconds left.

The drive was not only important because it ran valuable time off the clock, but it forced the Rebels to score a touchdown -- instead of a field goal -- on their final drive. Once junior safety Ryan Hamilton recorded his third interception of the game to seal the 23-17 victory, the Commodores proved once again that their "do whatever it takes" attitude is here to stay.

"It's just a different vibe this year," said Adams. "It's my fourth year here and we've had some great players and some good teams, but there's something just a little bit different about this team.

"We had some bad things happen to us early in the (Ole Miss) game and nobody really freaked out. Everyone was still in it and focused and just ready to come back. We expect to win."


No matter what the odds have been this year, the Commodores haven't given up... just like Daniel Laruso.

You know where I'm going with this.



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