OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — If Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin was concerned about a trap game Saturday night facing his No. 12 Rebels, those concerns were erased immediately.
Jaxson Dart threw for one touchdown, ran for another and Mississippi scored on five consecutive first-half possessions as the Rebels defeated Vanderbilt 33-7 on Saturday night.
“So often you can be flat or get caught in a trap game at home against an opponent that has struggled, but this is good,” Kiffin said. “We’re 7-1 after starting 3-1. We’re 19-2 in the last 21 home games. That’s pretty cool.”
Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1 SEC) eliminated any upset hopes with a 26-0 blitz by going 5-of-5 in the red zone opening a 23-minute stretch that spanned to the 7:40 mark in the second period. Dart scored on a 1-yard run and a threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dayton Wade, finishing with eight receptions for 120 yards.
“It was my time tonight. It’s 11 men on the team and it was my time when the ball goes up,” Wade said “It’s a great win and I know Dart is going to put the ball there and our backs were great. Just great. When they tote like that, it opens it up for the receivers.”
Quinshon Judkins opened the scoring with a weaving 18-yard scoring run, highlighting a 17 rushes for 124 yards performance, including a fourth quarter 3-yard touchdown run. Judkins had nine rushes for 99 yards in the early scoring surge.
Dart was 19 of 28 passing for 240 yards as the Rebels finished with 431 yards of total offense, 301 in the decisive first half. Trey Washington added an interception to set up the first of Caden Davis field goals of 27 and 48 yards.
Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-5) was led by reserve quarterback Walter Taylor, leading a third-quarter scoring drive capped by a 2-yard scoring run.
“Obviously, we are disappointed. We wanted to play better,” Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea said. “We didn’t.”
The Commodores managed 229 yards of total offense, including 65 yards on the touchdown drive and 53 on the game’s final series.
Vanderbilt: Traditionally, the Commodores play well against Mississippi. Not this time. Midway through the second period, the offense had crossed midfield once, thrown an interception and had 31 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Vanderbilt gave up five consecutive scoring series after the opening kickoff. The Commodores played better in the second half, but the issue had been settled already.
“I was proud of how we battled in the third quarter,” Lea said. “We battled on both sides of the ball. The game got away from us.”
Mississippi: Clearly, the Rebels are trending up. October featured three consecutive SEC wins, a much needed open date to heal and the offense rediscovered Judkins as a game-changer. The defensive performance against the Commodores, including Jared Ivey with 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, was impressive. Now, the focus moves toward the pivotal month of November.
“I’m really proud of our defense. They were great all day,” Kiffin said. “I felt like we had big sacks and significant sacks. Our defensive line was after it. That was great to see. It was a great defensive performance.”
The No. 12 Rebels are the third-highest ranked of six SEC teams in the poll. The win should keep Mississippi within reach of moving into the Top 10.
Last November, Mississippi was 8-1, ranked as high as No. 7 in the AP Top 25 poll, with hopes for an SEC West Division title, a postseason playoff berth or a New Year’s Day Six bowl appearance. The Rebels finished 0-4 including an uninspired Texas Bowl loss, fell out of the AP Top 25 poll and closed at 8-5.
Mississippi enters November at 7-1 with virtually identical prospects. The month’s schedule features Texas A&M and Louisiana-Monroe at home with road visits to No. 1 Georgia and in-state rival Mississippi State for the Egg Bowl. The Rebels have secured bowl eligibility already.
Kiffin, along with several players, stressed an improved ability in dealing with adversity and do not expect to limp home in November.
“When things don’t go their way and they’re not playing exactly how they wanted, as many snaps as they wanted or getting the ball as much, then what happens?” Kiffin asked. “That’s where I feel like this team has been different.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores host Auburn on Saturday in the home finale for Vanderbilt.
Mississippi: The No. 12 Rebels host Texas A&M in an 11a.m. CST kickoff on Saturday. Mississippi has won two straight and five of the previous eight meetings in the series.