Chris Boyd’s 26-yard touchdown reception with 52 seconds to play put Vanderbilt ahead for the first time and — more importantly — into a bowl game for the second straight season and the third time in five years.
The Commodores (6-4, 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference) overcame a 17-point second-half deficit in a battle of five-win teams and defeated Ole Miss 27-26 Saturday at Oxford, Miss. They also, however, lost all-time leading rusher Zac Stacy to a knee injury on the second play of the contest.
The game-winning score capped a nine-play, 79-yard drive that included Vanderbilt’s 12th fourth-down conversion of the season. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers scrambled for three yards on fourth-and-2 from the Commodores’ 46. Four plays later, he connected with Boyd down the left sideline and the junior wide receiver raced untouched into the end zone.
"We've been working on emphasizing the two-minute drill in practice, and the last couple of weeks we've been getting down and scoring," Rodger said. "So it's good to see that translate to real-life game situations."
Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4) got to the Vanderbilt 48 in the closing seconds but its chance to answer ended when quarterback Bo Wallace threw incomplete on fourth-and-7 with 14 seconds to play.
Rodgers was 5-for-6 on the final drive and finished with 20 completions on 35 attempts, 267 yards passing and two touchdowns. Jordan Matthews caught nine passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and Boyd added five receptions for 64 yards. Wesley Tate was the leading rusher with 43 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts.
Wallace completed 31 of 49 passes for 403 yards with a touchdown and scored on a one-yard run that made it 23-6 with 11:42 to play in the third quarter. James Logan had a game-high 160 yards on eight receptions.
The Commodores struggled after the injury to Stacy, who also lost a fumble when he was hurt on a 16-yard run. They failed to convert on third down in the first half (six opportunities) and had just 128 yards of total offense through two quarters.
They failed to score a first-half touchdown for just the second time this season but did take advantage of an offside call against the Rebels, which allowed Carey Spear to attempt — and make — a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
"We didn't have any doubt at all," Boyd said. "We knew we didn't play very well in the first half, so we knew as long as we did what we were supposed to do, we would fix what happened. It's all about how mentally tough we are. We came out in the second half much more mentally prepared, and it paid off."
With the victory, they became bowl eligible with a pair of game games still to play (Tennessee and Wake Forest). They also won at least four conference games for just the 10th time.