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Embarrassed

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Outplayed. Outcoached. Outmatched.

The Rebels (1-2, 0-1 SEC) are 1-9 in their last 10 conference games, while head coach Houston Nutt’s hot seat gets hotter and rumors swirl about his uncertain future in Oxford.

“Looked really bad,” Nutt said. “It’s a little bit of everything. I never felt that way on the sideline. Just didn’t feel right.

“We just didn’t have that confidence. We didn’t make first downs and move the ball like we normally do. That was a first.”

Coaches, players and fans are all looking for answers after Vanderbilt (3-0, 1-0 SEC) routed Ole Miss 30-7 in Saturday afternoon’s Southeastern Conference opener.

“I don’t think anybody saw anything like that happening at all,” senior running back Brandon Bolden said. “Everybody saw it as shocking. It’s just something you got to work at and not let happen again.”

The offense was anemic and looked out of sync from the start, gaining only 234 yards of total offense, while junior quarterback Zack Stoudt (13-for-26, 139 yards), who had not thrown an interception through the first two games, unraveled and threw five interceptions.

“I don’t have a lot of answers right now other than you can’t win with five interceptions; I know that,” offensive coordinator David Lee said.

The offense was also shutout until junior quarterback Zack Stoudt found freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief open down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the game. That 47-yard connection was one of just two plays that gained 20 or more yards in the game for the Rebels.

Miscues on the offensive line included four false start penalties and a snap over Stoudt’s head for a safety, while also struggling to protect Stoudt and junior quarterback Randall Mackey and open holes and running lanes for Bolden and sophomore running back Jeff Scott.

“Sometimes I had enough and didn’t do anything with it,” Stoudt said. “Sometimes we had something and didn’t have enough time to throw it off. Mistakes – it was all over the field.”
“It was everybody, but it starts with me.”

After Stoudt’s first interception of the game, senior defensive end Wayne Dorsey sacked Vanderbilt senior quarterback Larry Smith and forced a fumble that senior cornerback Vincent Moss recovered at the Commodores’ 38-yard line. Ole Miss squandered the opportunity with a three-and-out, and the first quarter ended scoreless.

Midway through the second quarter, a statue-of-liberty handoff to junior running back Zac Stacy went for 26 yards to move Vanderbilt into the red zone. Smith then put the Commodores on the board with a 19-yard touchdown run.

Things went from bad to worse later in the quarter. Backside pressure got to Stoudt and junior cornerback Trey Wilson intercepted the batted ball, returning it 52 yards for a Vanderbilt touchdown.

Just before the half, on 2nd-and-long, Smith threw a backwards pass to Stacy, and he turned the broken play into a 34-yard gain. Vanderbilt freshman running back Jerron Seymour then powered his way from nine yards out for another Commodore score. On the last play of the first half, Stoudt tried to make something happen and threw his third interception of the game.

“Most surprising to me goes back to the offense because I thought first half defense played well enough that we should have put points on the board, but we couldn’t get that seven,” Nutt said.

Coming out of halftime, on the third play from scrimmage, junior center A.J. Hawkins snapped the ball over Stoudt’s head and sophomore running back Jeff Scott kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety to give Vanderbilt a 23-0 lead.

“I think we needed to relax,” Stoudt said of being down 21-0 at halftime. “I don’t think we were in as bad a situation as we were going into halftime.

“We got the ball back to start the third quarter, but I think we were all just pressing too hard and trying to make too much happen, and we kept making more mistakes.”

After the ensuing kickoff, the Commodores drove down the field and converted a 3rd-and-long on a 33-yard screen pass to Seymour. The Ole Miss defense finally stopped the bleeding when senior cornerback Marcus Temple intercepted Stacy’s throwback to Smith in the end zone for a touchback.

Stacy added to his career-high 167 rushing yards when he ran untouched down the Ole Miss sideline for a 77-yard touchdown run to put Vanderbilt up 30-0.

Mackey, who left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury, and Stoudt drove the Rebels into Commodore territory for the first time since early in the second quarter and then into the red zone, but Stoudt was intercepted for the fourth time at the four-yard line.

In the closing minutes of the game, Stoudt broke up the shutout when he found receiver Donte Moncrief for a 47-yard touchdown pass, but Ole Miss unsuccessfully recovered the ensuing onside kick.

“I’ve got to let (the players) know I still believe in them,” Nutt said. “I got to do a much better job of getting them ready to go.”