OXFORD, Miss. -- Bo Wallace had been there before.
A week ago against Texas A&M, the Ole Miss quarterback took the ball with minutes left in a tie game and had a final drive to get the win. It failed after three straight passes found the Vaught-Hemingway turf.
This time was different. Wallace knew it had to be.
"I knew I wasn't letting this happen to us again," Wallace said. "We have confidence in Jaylen (Walton) and everybody else, and we churned out yards."
"Our confidence needed this. We couldn't drop four in a row. If we did that heads would drop and maybe not come to work as focused like they should, but to get a win like this is a huge step."
Wallace took the ball with three minutes left and moved to the LSU 24 yard line. There, Andrew Ritter hit a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left, giving Wallace the signature drive and the Rebels the 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU -- the highest ranked team Ole Miss has beaten since No. 4 Florida in 2008.
With the way a lot of close games have fallen the other way, Wallace didn't find relief until the drawn-out kickoff return ended harmlessly, ending the game and signaling the opportunity for Ole Miss fans to celebrate on the field.
"For me, I was worried about the kickoff the way these games have been going," Wallace said. "Two seconds left and you don't know what will happen, and the throwing back and forth lasted forever. I couldn't get emotional about the kick."
That came later. Charles Sawyer said it was the best after-game locker room of his career. Wallace finally let it all sink in. For the night, the junior QB was 30-of-39 for 346 yards.
"I was really emotional," Wallace said. "I almost lost it. I almost cried and just felt everything lift off of us. It was an emotional time, and I'm so excited for our guys and our defense for them to play with starters out." v
DEFENSIVE EFFORT LEADS WAY: When Hugh Freeze woke up Thursday morning he had four defensive starters out for the LSU game -- defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche and CJ Johnson, linebacker Serderius Bryant and cornerback Mike Hilton.
Then things got worse.
Senquez Golson broke team rules, and Freeze suspended his best cornerback, making the decision around 11 p.m. Thursday and telling Golson Friday morning. That left Sawyer and freshmen Derrick Jones and Bobby Hill to handle potentially the SEC's best receiving duo -- Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
The Ole Miss secondary picked off Zack Mettenberger three times, and while Landry picked up 122 yards on seven catches and Beckham added 75 on five, the Rebels limited the deep tosses and helped get an early lead that held up.
"Two difficult games we could have won the previous two weeks but didn't and a lot of guys missing, guys were warriors tonight and played their hearts out," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "I was so proud of them and what they did. The second half we had a couple breaks against us but won the game."
Jones got second team reps during practice this past week, but Hill was thrown into the game plan a good bit more after the Golson situation occurred.
"(Jones is) getting reps and is growing up the hard way," Wommack said. "It's funny because midway through the season we thought we'd redshirt him, and Hugh stepped in and said he could play corner. We moved him and there we go. Bobby didn't get many reps because we thought we'd have Senquez for the game. We didn't so he didn't get many reps."
Mettenberger finished 19-of-33 for 274 yards, one touchdown and the three picks. Ole Miss' corners and safeties combined for great effort, and the front four pressured Mettenberger with a patchwork unit.
"Our guys executed the plan," Wommack said. "We bracketed both wide receivers. Mettenberger had made great throws but we did a good job of clamping, and when he under threw or overthrew we were there.
I was proud of (the safeties). Chief showed up and had a great week of practice. It's nice to have three guys to handle two spots. We don't have that in a lot of places. Our guys just keep competing. (Defensive line coach Chris) Kiffin did great job moving people around, and he got pressure up front with a four-man rush."
Despite the absences and three-game losing streak, Ole Miss found 60 minutes of quality football to get back the Magnolia Bowl trophy. Wommack credited his boss.
"Hugh does an unbelievable job motivating this team," Wommack said. "I think the assistants take after this lead and the kids believe in us and we bleive in them. Even though we're not healthy and not where we're going to be in the near future with depth, everybody believes in each others, and that's a huge part of it."
OXFORD VISITORS BUREAU: Ole Miss entertained four official visitors and a handful of other top targets Saturday at the Rebels' Magnolia Bowl showdown against No. 6 LSU.
Joliet, Ill., Rivals100 linebacker Clifton Garrett, who is believed to favor LSU at this point in the recruiting process, took an official visit to Ole Miss this weekend. Garrett has already taken an official visit to Tennessee this season. Garrett made the trip to Oxford with his parents.
Other official visitors in Oxford Saturday included Plaquemine, La., defensive end Davon Godchaux; Lompac, Calif., defensive tackle; and Longview, Texas, defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson.
Among unofficial visitors who were spotted, expected or announced their plans via social media Saturday to attend were River Ridge, La., cornerback Terrence Alexander; Bassfield, Miss., cornerback Cornell Armstrong and athletes Alvin Moore and Calvin Moore; Greenwood, Miss., tight end Sammie Epps; Clarksdale, Miss., athlete J.T. Gray; Gallatin, Tenn., wide receiver Josh Malone; Stockbridge, Ga., cornerback Kendarius Webster; Northeast Mississippi Community College defensive end Daniel Ross; and Florence, Ala., quarterback Kendrick Doss.
A handful of top high school juniors were in Oxford as well, including Petal, Miss., offensive lineman Javon Patterson; Tyrone, Ga., running back Eric Swinney; and Florence, Ala., running back Roland Adams.
MATHERS, WALTON FILL IN FOR SCOTT: Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott did not play Saturday due to a deep thigh bruise suffered two weeks ago and then aggravated against Texas A&M. He wasn't missed in the running game against LSU.
Sophomore Jaylen Walton rushed 18 times for 105 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards and fellow sophomore I'Tavius Mathers picked up 52 yards on 13 carries and caught two passes for seven yards.
"I have great confidence in Jaylen and I-Train," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I see them every day so I think they're very talented. I think Jaylen does some things in the zone game that are pretty special. He's got a little hesitation move and he's got some acceleration."
GOLSON'S SUSPENSION CAUSES SHAKE-UP: Freeze said he decided Thursday night at 11 to suspend cornerback Senquez Golson from Saturday's game for a violation of team rules. Freeze notified Golson of his decision Friday morning.
"We're not going to sit back and we're not going to bend on certain things," Freeze said. "That's just it. I've made my mind up. You have to be accountable to your teammates and your program and you have to care more about your program than you do yourself. We love all our kids and we certainly hope he'll learn from it, bounce back and be ready to go."
With Golson out and the gameplan already in place, the Rebels' defensive coaches were "in a bind. We normally get to sleep in on Friday morning but the defensive staff was up here pretty early."
REBEL RAMBLINGS: Ole Miss' win Saturday was its first over a ranked opponent since beating No. 24 Mississippi State last November and the first win over a top-10 foe since beating No. 8 LSU in 2009. No. 6 LSU was the highest ranked team to lose to Ole Miss since the Rebels' 31-30 win over No. 4 Florida in 2008. Wallace passes Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list and is now in seventh place with 4,784 yards. Donte Moncrief is now tied with former Rebel receivers Mike Wallace and Shay Hodge for second school history with six career 100-yard receiving games. Laquon Treadwell extended his freshman record total to 39 receptions Saturday. Junior tight end Nick Parker grabbed his first career catch Saturday, a 3-yard first-quarter touchdown reception from Barry Brunetti. Charles Sawyer recorded his eighth career interception Saturday and is now the SEC's active leader in career picks.
Ole Miss running back Jaylen Walton meets with the media following the Rebels' win over LSU Saturday.