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SEC: Ole Miss escapes with win at Vandy

Associated Press
Published August 31, 2003

NASHVILLE - Mississippi again narrowly avoided a calamity against Vanderbilt.

Jonathan Nichols kicked a career-long 54-yard field goal with 3:52 left as Mississippi scored 10 consecutive points to beat Vanderbilt 24-21 on Saturday.

Last season, a late touchdown gave Ole Miss a 45-38 victory.

"I didn't think we were close enough," Rebels quarterback Eli Manning said. "But Jonathan Nichols hit a 54-yarder to win it. That was incredible."

Nichols also hit 51- and 20-yard field goals for the Rebels' only points in the first half.

"He was just outstanding," Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe said of his kicker.

The Commodores have lost 18 consecutive SEC games dating to November 2000 and 27 of their past 28 league games.

Ole Miss trailed for most of the game before Manning led a 75-yard drive capped by a 23-yard touchdown to Mike Espy to tie it at 21. Then Manning completed three passes on the final drive to set up the winning field goal.

Vanderbilt had a chance during the final minute, but Jay Cutler threw the ball away under pressure on fourth down. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said he believed depth was the key.

"Our guys were tired in the fourth quarter," he said. "We asked a lot of our players, and they played hard.

"I was satisfied with the effort they gave."

Manning threw for one touchdown and a two-point conversion. He was 22-of-33 for 275 yards.

"He played well when it wasn't easy," Cutcliffe said. "Vanderbilt had a great scheme, but Eli responded and made great decisions."

The Commodores led 7-6 at halftime and could have had a bigger lead if not for two turnovers deep in Ole Miss territory, including an interception in the end zone.

Vanderbilt, with 10 sophomores starting on defense, held the Rebels to 48 yards of offense in the first quarter. The Commodores also forced Mississippi to settle for a field goal at the end of the first half, stopping the Rebels three times from the 2.

They last led 21-14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter on Cutler's 2-yard touchdown to Brandon Smith.

That is when Manning took over for the Rebels. Now Cutcliffe will work on fixing his team's mistakes before visiting Memphis.

"We didn't execute on offense as well as I would have liked," he said. "Our rhythm was not as good as it could be. We did not play as crisp on defense as I thought we would. We didn't tackle very well.

"We are gritty. That was revealed. Road games in the SEC don't come easy, particularly when you don't play particularly well."

TENNESSEE 24, FRESNO ST. 6: Casey Clausen threw two touchdowns and Jabari Davis ran 44 yards for another for the host Volunteers.

Tennessee had 433 yards of offense, the most since a six-overtime victory against Arkansas in October, and 274 rushing yards.

Fresno State's Rodney Davis had a school-record 1,586 yards rushing last season but was held to 16 on 13 carries. Fresno State's Jeff Grady, who replaced the injured Paul Pinegar at quarterback, was sacked twice and went 13-of-24 for 118 yards.

Clausen finished 18-of-31 for 159 yards.

The Vols went up 14-0 in the second quarter after Davis got open up the middle and sped down the field for a 44-yard touchdown run.

Tony Brown went up on his tip toes to catch a 5-yard pass to make it 21-0 at the end of the third.

LSU 49, LA-MONROE 7: Matt Mauck threw three touchdowns during a 61/2-minute span for the host Tigers. Mauck, who missed the final seven games of last season with torn ligaments in his foot, was 13-for-28 for 153 yards.

The game was scoreless until Mauck threw an 8-yard touchdown to Devery Henderson. He hit Joseph Addai for a 17-yard touchdown less than two minutes later, and hit Michael Clayton for a 40-yarder to make it 21-0 at halftime.

SOUTH CAROLINA 14, LA.-LAFAYETTE 7: The host Gamecocks' defense overcame a lackluster offensive performance. South Carolina allowed 272 yards, but the Ragin' Cajun offense didn't score as the lone touchdown came when a blocked kick was returned 89 yards.

Louisiana-Lafayette made it near or beyond midfield six times, but it committed two turnovers, punted three times and missed a 52-yard field goal.

Tight end Hart Turner, a senior who entered with five catches, got two of his three receptions on a six-play drive that ended with a 7-yard run by sophomore Kenny Irons and made it 14-7.

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