Baton Rouge, LA – Jeremy Hill's third rushing touchdown of the game, a 1-yard plunge with 15 seconds left, provided the difference as eighth-ranked Louisiana State staved off an upset bid by Ole Miss with a wild 41-35 victory at Tiger Stadium.
Hill finished with 77 rushing yards and Zach Mettenberger overcame two second- half interceptions to throw for 282 yards on 22-of-37 passing as the Tigers (9-2, 5-2 SEC) registered their second straight win since their narrow loss to rival Alabama on Nov. 3.
LSU overcame an eight-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter by outscoring the Rebels 21-7 over the final 12 minutes. The Tigers pulled even at 35-35 on an 89-yard punt return by Odell Beckham, then moved in front for good with a 9-play, 64-yard march capped by Hill's third score of the afternoon.
"You have to play four quarters of football. That's what this program teaches us," said Tigers running back Spencer Ware. "How we train enables us to go out there and finish strong like we did tonight."
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) outgained the Tigers by a 463-427 margin in total yards, but committed four costly turnovers that were converted into 13 points.
"I think everything we were doing was working," said Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace. I thought we executed, for the most part, pretty well, but there were still times that we were shooting ourselves in the foot. We have to eliminate that."
Wallace amassed 310 passing yards and accounted for four touchdowns -- two passing, two rushing -- but was intercepted three times and completed only 15- of-35 attempts in the Rebels' third consecutive setback.
Donte Moncrief had a huge day for Ole Miss in defeat, catching six Wallace passes for a career-high 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Moncrief's second score, a 30-yard hookup with Wallace that came a mere 28 seconds after Hill capped a 12-play, 88-yard drive by powering in from a yard out, gave the Rebels a 35-28 lead with 11:11 to go, and Ole Miss had a chance to add to it after forcing LSU to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession.
The LSU defense would come up with a quick stop, however, causing a Jim Broadway punt that Beckham fielded at his own 11-yard line, found a seam heading towards the left sideline, then cut back right to outrace the coverage team to knot the score with 9:10 left to play.
"If there was one game ball to be given in this evening, it is given to Odell Beckham," stated LSU head coach Les Miles. "That was maybe the biggest momentum changer in a game that I saw."
Ole Miss failed to generate a first down on its next two series, the last of which gave the Tigers back the ball at their 36 with 4:18 remaining.
Mettenberger came up with a clutch third-down completion to Kadron Boone to extend the drive, and a roughing the passer call on the Rebels' Denzel Nkemdiche on the next play moved LSU to the Ole Miss 20 with 1:04 on the clock.
Hill broke off a 16-yard run to the 2-yard line shortly afterward, and after a penalty for the Rebels having 12 men on the field inched the football closer, the powerful freshman plowed his way across the goal line to break the deadlock with just 15 seconds left. Kicker Drew Alleman would misfire on the subsequent point-after try.
Ole Miss had little trouble moving the ball on a usually stout LSU defense during the first half, piling up an impressive 285 yards over the first two quarters in taking a 21-17 lead into the locker room.
A pair of big plays in which the Rebels capitalized on a defensive breakdown by the Tigers enabled Ole Miss to hold a 14-7 edge after one quarter.
The first came less than five minutes into the contest, when Wallace got the Tigers to bite on an option fake and sprinted untouched for a 58-yard touchdown for the game's opening points.
It took LSU a mere 21 seconds to answer, however. Mettenberger connected with James Wright for a 48-yard gain on the ensuing play from scrimmage, and Hill followed by breaking free for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the score.
After the Rebels got the ball back following a 48-yard field goal miss by Alleman later in the quarter, Wallace fired a strike down the middle to Moncrief, with the Ole Miss wideout eluding a pair of tackles on the way to a 56-yard catch-and-run that staked his team to a 14-7 edge.
LSU would move back ahead by taking advantage of a pair of Ole Miss miscues, with a muffed punt by the Rebels' Korvic Neat deep in his own territory leading to a 22-yard Alleman field goal 10 seconds into the second quarter and Jalen Collins intercepting Wallace on the subsequent possession to set the Tigers up at the Mississippi 36-yard line.
Ware totaled 33 yards on a reception and two strong runs to produce a 1st-and- goal at the Ole Miss 1, then eventually capped the drive by leaping into the end zone on fourth down to put LSU in front by a 17-14 count with just under 10 minutes left before intermission.
The Rebels responded by impressively marching 97 yards on 11 plays later in the half. Wallace went 5-of-7 for 94 yards on the sequence, including a 20- yard delivery to Ja-Mes Logan during a 4th-and-3 situation. A 25-yard completion to Logan later on set the stage for Wallace's 1-yard touchdown off the left side that put Ole Miss back ahead with 50 seconds left in the half.
LSU closed within 21-20 on an Alleman 24-yard field goal early in the third quarter, a kick that came about after Tharold Simon intercepted an ill-advised Wallace pass on the second play from scrimmage of the period.
The Rebels would turn the tables later in the frame, however, with Senquez Golson picking off Mettenberger's overthrown ball for Jarvis Landry in LSU territory.
Ole Miss cashed in on the turnover, with Randall Mackey's 6-yard run finishing off a 9-play, 38-yard series that pushed the margin to eight points in the final minute of the third quarter.
LSU countered by methodically moving down the field for the tying touchdown. The highlight of the 12-play, 88-yard drive was a 22-yard pass from Mettenberger to Boone to the Ole Miss 1-yard line, with Hill punching it on immediately afterward and Mettenberger finding an open Ware for the conversion attempt to produce a 28-28 deadlock.
The win gave Miles 84 victories during his tenure at LSU, moving him past Bernie Moore for sole possession of second place in school history ... Moncrief's 161 receiving yards were the most by an Ole Miss player since Cory Peterson accumulated 164 against Memphis on Sept. 5, 1998 ... The Rebels have now last 13 straight games to ranked opponents since a 21-7 triumph over Oklahoma State in the 2010 Cotton Bowl.