Mississippi makes its stand

Published October 8, 2006

OXFORD, Miss. - Rory Johnson had waited patiently for an opportunity. When it came, he made the most of it.

The junior college transfer, in his first start, keyed an inspired defensive effort Saturday that lifted Mississippi to a 17-10 win over Vanderbilt before 51,211 in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Johnson, who saw his first action in a reserve role only two weeks ago, finished with 16 tackles, forced three fumbles and broke up a pass. Johnson set up an early touchdown with a fumble return and stopped a fourth quarter Vanderbilt drive inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line.

"We made plays," Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said. "Rory has really come on and he had the kind of performance today that we think he's capable of. We did it today with special teams and defense. That's the way I like it."

Johnson led a group of tacklers that stopped quarterback Mackenzi Adams and stripped him of the football inside the Rebel 5, halting the third of four Vanderbilt scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter.

"The quarterback (Adams) had the ball sitting out there and I had to take it," Johnson said. "It feels good to finally get a chance to play on the big-time level and I love it."

One series later, Charles Clark pulled down a game-saving interception on the game's final play as the Rebels snapped a six-game SEC losing streak.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 102 yards on 24 carries and two scores in the victory.

Vanderbilt turned the ball over six times and was dominated in the kicking game. The Commodores missed two field goals, fumbled a punt return and took a sack by the punter that led to an Ole Miss touchdown.

Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson was lost to an ankle injury late in the first half and did not return. Nickson was 11-of-13 for 95 yards and directed the Commodores to their only touchdown.

Adams was 10-of-20 for 176 yards in a relief role, but the Commodores got only a 38-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt on four scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter.

"We had to work hard to lose that one, and we did. We just made too many mistakes," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "We had too many opportunities that we wasted and squandered. We gave them too many short fields and opportunities to score. Other than that, we played extremely good defense, gained a lot of yards, and ended up scoring 10 points."

Johnson set up the first Ole Miss touchdown on a 28-yard return after a fumble by Vanderbilt receiver George Smith. Three plays later, Green-Ellis scored on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing series, Vanderbilt punter Brett Upson was forced to hold the ball at the Commodore 17-yard line to avoid a blocked punt. Four plays later, Green-Ellis scored on a 1-yard run to give the Rebels a 14-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first.

"We just hurt ourselves. We're not good enough to help other teams, and we certainly helped Ole Miss. They did a good job of taking advantage with what we gave them," Johnson said.

Vanderbilt pulled within 14-7 at halftime on an 18-yard touchdown from Nickson to Sean Walker. Nickson was 4-for-4 for 56 yards in the scoring drive, but was hurt on the following series.

Ole Miss took a 17-7 third quarter lead on a 32-yard field goal by Joshua Shene on the opening possession of the second half. Brandon Jenkins recovered a fumble by Commodore running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison at the Vanderbilt 42-yard line to set up the score.