October 16, 2017 9:58:57 AM
OXFORD -- Playing at home appears to be exactly what the Ole Miss football team needed.
Sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson was 22-for-35 for 351 yards and four touchdowns, and former Starkville High School standout A.J. Brown had eight catches for 174 yards to lead Ole Miss to a 57-35 victory against Vanderbilt before an announced crowd of 60,157 in a Southeastern Conference game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The game was Ole Miss' first at home in a month. It also was the Rebels' most complete game of the season.
"I was really pleased for our players," Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke said. "It was really good to be home ... to watch our players feed off the energy from the fans ... I was really excited for our players and our fans."
The emergence of the running game sparked Ole Miss. Senior running back Jordan Wilkins led the way with 113 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Oft-injured sophomore Eric Swinney had his finest day as a Rebel, rushing for 76 yards on seven carries. He also scored his first career touchdown to lead a rushing attack that had 252 yards on 41 attempts.
Ole Miss' ability to move the ball on the ground kept Vanderbilt off balance and provided an opportunity for some big plays in the passing game. Brown had two of them with a pair of touchdowns.
"He (Brown) is just a playmaker," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. "They squeezed him both low and high, but when you are running the football well it is very hard to come downhill and play the run game and take away A.J. at the same time. He (Brown) made them pay when they did with the inside cut (route)."
The defining play could have been a penalty that negated a 75-yard touchdown run by Wilkins. Ole Miss then had an unsportsmanlike penalty tacked on. The Rebels were forced to punt three plays later with the game tied at 7. Vanderbilt then moved 56 yards on five plays to take a 14-7 lead with 9 minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter.
Instead of letting Vanderbilt take control, Ole Miss rattled off 28 unanswered points in the next seven minutes to take a 35-14 lead.
"I was really proud of our team at that point," Luke said. "It could have been, 'here we go again, something bad is happening again', but there was too much positive energy on the sideline, I was really pleased with the mental toughness of our team."
Ole Miss' defense also had its moments to shine. Senior defensive end Marquise Haynes had three sacks to become the school's modern day sacks leader with 29. Sacks weren't kept as a statistic until the early 1980s.
"We are really proud of Marquise and the overall consistency he has had," Luke said.
Haynes' sack and a fumble by quarterback Kyle Shurmur came on Vanderbilt's first play after Ole Miss had tied the game at 14. The play led to a 28 point explosion.
"It wasn't just about the turnovers," Luke said. "It was about communication and alignment, (the defense) getting lined up in the right spot over and over. ... When you do the right things over and over again, good things will happen for you."
The win helped the Rebels even their record at 3-3 and improve to 1-2 in the SEC. Ole Miss will play host to LSU (5-2, 2-1) at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. LSU has victories against Florida and Auburn in the last two weeks. Those wins came after a loss to Mississippi State and an upset against Troy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
1. Loss to Kentucky reveals issues for MSU LOCAL COLUMNS
2. MSU women's basketball team set to open practice Thursday COLLEGE SPORTS
4. EMCC' Sharp commits to MSU COLLEGE SPORTS