It was the kind of game that deserves a title.
Les Miles called it “Wild and Woolly,” two words that aptly describe a 41-35 slugfest between No. 8 LSU and Ole Miss in which the Tigers needed all 60 minutes to escape with a victory.
It was the kind of game that brings out that famous version of Miles where his face gets a little redder and his hat sits a little higher on his head. Perhaps it was the emotions of sending off a class of 15 seniors or the reaction to an 89-yard, game-tying punt return touchdown that seemed eerily similar to one 53 years ago.
But something brought out a fire in LSU’s football coach.
“It was [Ole Miss’] night,” Miles said. “Everything they did…When you find a team that fights beyond that and somehow someway they are going to win. Man, that is special. There isn’t a question about it.”
It was a game few expected to be that close. LSU beat Ole Miss by 49 points a year ago, and Vegas named the Tigers an 18.5-point favorite. But the Rebels are much-improved from 2011, and there’s always a little bit of magic between these two teams.
“Rivalries are bigger than people,” said defensive end Sam Montgomery. “A rivalry can bring out a team that doesn’t look like anything and can play bigger than they’ve ever played. This rivalry brought a game out of them you’ve never seen before.”
LSU also played a part in allowing that to happen. Three turnovers, including one in the endzone, a missed field goal and two stalled drives in the redzone kept the Rebels alive.
Add in 316 yards passing against a struggling LSU secondary, and LSU found itself with a late deficit.
“It was all of us,” said safety Eric Reid. “It’s something we have to clean up. It shouldn’t be happening this late in the season, but sometimes you have a bad day. I’m just grateful we got the win.”
With LSU trailing by a touchdown with about nine minutes remaining, the Tigers had only barely begun to swing the momentum back their direction after a three-and-out.
Cue Odell Beckham.
The sophomore fielded a punt at his own 11-yard line, started left, cut back right, sprinted past a group of Rebels and found a seam down the right sideline until he reached the north endzone, recalling memories of Billy Cannon and his Halloween Run.
“If there was one game ball to be given in this evening, it is given to Odell Beckham,” Miles said. “That was maybe the biggest momentum changer in a game that I saw.”
The LSU defense responded with another three-and-out that seemingly set up a go-ahead score — until Jarvis Landry fumbled.
The sophomore receiver coughed it up trying to prolong a completion down the left sideline, and when Ole Miss reentered the LSU redzone just two plays later, it appeared LSU might have let the momentum slip away one final time.
But Anthony Johnson got to Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace for an 11-yard sack, and Lavar Edwards followed suit on the next play. That left the Rebels with only an attempt at a 53-yard field goal attempt, which fell wide right.
“We just can’t seem to get the stop when we have to have one, or the touchdown when we have to have one,” said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. “Give Coach Miles and them credit. It was a great game in this rivalry. It’s just unfortunate that we can’t celebrate one of these [victories].”
The next drive finally sealed the win. Nine plays and 64 yards later, Jeremy Hill dove into the endzone from one-yard out and gave the remaining LSU contingent reason to celebrate.
And Miles too.
“Just so you know, I’m proud of those men,” he said. “How easy it could have been to say it was [Ole Miss’] night. Spectacular group of men. You go find them, throw your arms around them and you give them a big kiss on the mouth.
“If you are a girl.”
Click Here for the Players of the Game