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September 5, 2005This time it was different.
Rather than crumble, he led. Rather than falter, he succeeded. Rather than lose, he won.
Micheal Spurlock needed this game and he got it.
Spurlock scampered for a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter on a fourth-and-goal to give Ole Miss a 10-6 lead that would hold through the end of the game and give the Rebels a win to break a two-game losing streak to Memphis.
"It kind of just happened, we were on the sidelines and Coach (Noel) Mazzone asked if I was ready to go and I was like 'yes sir," Spurlock said. "We didn't draw it up, sometimes when it breaks down you just have to go make a play, the play happened I took advantage of it and scored the touchdown."
It was Spurlock that showed the capability to led his team down the field, something he couldn't do a year ago. Spurlock finished the game 14-of-27 for 184 yards, a stark contrast to his 11-of-31 performance of a year ago.
"It's very gratifying, it was a lot of praying and a lot of time spent with my family and my teammates and I thank them a whole lot," Spurlock said.
While he wasn't spectacular, he was good enough to put enough points on the board to give Ole Miss the win.
"He made plays when he had to, the fourth down call, we didn't make any field goals so we had to go for it and Spurlock made a play when he had too," Ed Orgeron said. "I thought it was a no-brainer (to go for it on fourth down) after the last field goal, we decided to go for it."
What was spectacular was the play of Ole Miss' defense which forced two fourth-quarter turnovers both on Ole Miss' side of the field to seal the win.
The first turnover came when Patrick Willis forced a Maurice Avery fumble on the Ole Miss 37 with 2:37 to go in the game. While the fumble looked like it would be Memphis' last chance, the Tigers got one more shot and the two Mid-South rivals provided for a dramatic finish.
After the Rebels failed to move the ball following the fumble the Will Hudgens, playing in place of injured starter starter Patrick Byrne, took Memphis to the Ole Miss six-yard line and was poised to provide the game-winning heroics.
His pass over the middle was picked off at the goal-line by Garry Pack and returned it 35 yards to seal the victory for the Rebels.
"I've got to catch to win the game is what was going through my mind," Pack said. "For a defensive player to win the game it feels good."
The win gave Orgeron a victory in his first career game as the coach at Ole Miss.
Spurlock's first drive set the tone for the rest of the game. He completed his first two-passes to Mario Hill for gains of 14 and 38 yards and drove Ole Miss deep into Memphis territory at the 12-yard line. A sack, a short run and a incompletion later the Rebels settled for a 35-yard field goal from Matt Hinkle to take a 3-0 lead. The field goal was the first of Hinkle's career.
What happened on the ensuing Ole Miss drive was nothing short of freak. Memphis quarterback Patrick Byrne, starting his first game, was on the field for only three plays. Kelvin Robinson sacked Byrne on a third-and-eight from the Memphis 22-yard line to force a fourth down. Byrne could not get off the turf and was carted off the field with a broken leg, his season over before it even started.
The next Memphis possession resulted in Hudgens, a former Ole Miss recruit, taking over the signal-calling duties for the rest of the game. On his first drive, Hudgens went 3-of-3 for 53 yards to get Memphis to the Ole Miss 17-yard line. Like the Rebels, the Tigers drive would stall and Stephen Gostkowski booted a 34-yard field goal to make it 3-3.
The Rebels effectively shut down Heisman candidate DeAngelo Williams. The senior running back rushed 24 times for only 85 yards and most importantly for Ole Miss, no touchdowns. The Rebel defense kept Williams from making a big play all day long with several stops in the backfield.
"A lot of the defense was geared to stopping DeAngelo," Orgeron said. "The fourth quarter showed what kind of football player he is and he busted a couple on us and I'm proud of our defense in the way they tackled."
The Rebels followed suit with a long drive of their own, but Matt Hinkle pushed his 26-yard attempt wide and the score remained 3-3.
Also struggling was Will Moseley both punting and place-kicking. Moseley's one chance at a field-goal, a 41-yard attempt sailed widely left and low.
The Ole Miss offense would be redeemed on account of the defense on the next play.
Hudgens' first pass from the Memphis 24-yard found Ole Miss cornerback Trumaine McBride who returned the ball to the Memphis 17-yard line.
"We practice those routes in practice all week," McBride said. "I spotted the route and just broke on the ball and made a play."
Brandon Jacobs rushed twice for five yards and Spurlock was incomplete to Hill which brought the Rebels to fourth-and-five. Spurlock however would scamper and score to push the Rebels out in front.
Spurlock was consistent throughout the day with his short and medium range passes, but couldn't quite connect on the long ball. There were several times during the day that the Ole Miss receivers found themselves behind the Memphis coverage, but overthrows from Spurlock prevented the Rebels from breaking the game open.
Over half of Spurlock's completions went to senior Mario Hill. Hill caught 8 passes for 132 yards to lead the Ole Miss receiving attack.
"It feels great, last year we didn't look too hot, this year we came out and turned it around with our new system," Hill said.
What surprising for Ole Miss was the ground attack. Behind a battered offensive line, the Rebel running backs couldn't get things going. A foursome of Ole Miss rushers managed only 58 yards on 22 carries. Mico McSwain led the way with 30 yards on six carries.
Still, for a team coming off so much offseason turmoil and change, a win is a win and the Rebels are 1 and 'O'