BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Bo Wallace wasn’t about to play it safe — not even in Death Valley. The bold but risky decision ended any hope No. 3 Mississippi may have had about its first unblemished record in more than half a century.
Wallace’s pass was intercepted by LSU safety Ronald Martin at the 1 with 2 seconds left, and the Rebels fell 10-7 to the 24th-ranked Tigers on Saturday night.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” Wallace said. “One-on-one, threw it up — done.”
Coach Hugh Freeze said he called for a safer throw to the sideline to set up a possible tying field goal.
“I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal,” Freeze said. “He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. … I wish I could do that over, for sure.”
Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) was lining up for a potential tying field goal from 42 yards, but was called for delay of game. The field goal unit lined up again for a 47-yarder with 9 seconds left when LSU coach Les Miles called timeout. That’s when the Rebels decided to run a play instead and Wallace threw his first interception in a Southeastern Conference game this season.
Soon after, a sizeable portion of the record-tying Tiger Stadium crowd of 102, 321 streamed onto the field, celebrating around — but not dismantling — the well-guarded goal posts.
“Wasn’t that crowd beautiful,” said LSU coach Les Miles, who led the Tigers (7-2, 3-2) out of the tunnel less than 24 hours after his 91-year-old mother, Martha, died.
“The concern that I had would be condolences and an outpouring of emotions and caring for each other could not exactly be what you want to go play a very violent, physical and competitive game,” added Miles, who received the game ball from his team. “After the game I can’t tell you the number of young men that threw their arms around me and told me, ‘Love you coach.’ It is as touching as anything I have had happen.”
Leonard Fournette ran for 113 yards, and LSU finished with 264 yards rushing against defense that came in allowing 97.1 per game. Anthony Jennings’ short touchdown pass to tight end Logan Stokes gave LSU the lead late with 5:07 left.
Kenny Hilliard carried six times for 47 yards on LSU’s decisive drive, including a 16-yard gain in which he used his free hand to throw 6-foot-5, 243-pound defensive end Carlos Thompson down along the LSU sideline. Fournette added four carries for 35 yards, including a 22 yarder to the Mississippi 13.
“The coaching staff said they are going to put the ball in the running backs’ hands,” Fournette said. “It was our duty and our job to make it happen. They gave Kenny the ball and he did the job. They gave it to me and it was the end of the story.”
Mississippi (7-1, 4-1) led most of the way, but mainly because LSU turned the ball over four times and missed a short field goal. The Rebels can still win the SEC West by winning out, though that would require beating No. 5 Auburn and No. 1 Mississippi State.
“This league is brutal,” Freeze said, adding the LSU has “the best offensive line we’ve played and the running backs are very, very good. And, defensively, they’re coming into their own.”
The Tigers largely stifled the Rebels’ offense, which was averaging 35.4 points.
Wallace was 14 of 33 for 176 yards, including his 15-yard touchdown to Cody Core late in the first quarter. Wallace, who was sacked twice, still scrambled for 40 net yards, and led Ole Miss in rushing. LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander was credited with eight totals tackles — 2 1/2 for losses — and fellow linebacker Kendell Beckwith led the Tigers with 10 tackles.
Jennings only threw the ball 16 times and was intercepted twice. He completed just eight passes for 142 yards, but came through for the winning score on a roll out after a play-action fake on second-and-goal.
Mississippi had two more possessions to come back, but the first one ended with a fourth-and-1 stop in which Beckwith and Jermauria Rasco held Wallace to no gain. With three timeouts left, the Rebels got the ball back again on their own 25 with 1:19 left.
Wallace extended the drive with a fourth-down completion. Later, a pass interference penalty wiped out what would have been a game-sealing interception, setting up the frantic finish.
It was apparent the Tigers were emotionally pumped up for the game — maybe too much so, judging by three big first-quarter mistakes.
Kicker Colby Delahoussaye missed a 28-yard field goal. Fournette fumbled on first-and-goal from the 3. Jalen Collins dropped of an easy interception of a floating halfback pass by Jordan Wilkins on a trick play Ole Miss tried on second-and-goal from the 10.
Collins’ drop allowed Ole Miss to cap that drive with Core’s TD.
Later, Terrence Magee was stripped while trying to break tackles near midfield.
When the first half ended, LSU had rushed for 147 yards but trailed 7-3.
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