OXFORD, Miss.-The winner of the Egg Bowl-the annual Ole Miss-Mississippi State game-receives an egg-shaped trophy.
Perhaps someone in Oxford should have given the Commodores an honorary replica. Vanderbilt laid an egg in every way imaginable at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday in a 17-10 loss at Ole Miss.
"We had to work hard to lose that one, and we did," said Vandy coach Bobby Johnson. "We had too many mistakes and missed opportunities."
"It's one thing when a team beats you because they're better, that's one thing," said Commodore running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison. "But we beat ourselves."
Vanderbilt dominated Ole Miss in every statistical category imaginable. The Commodores gained 400 yards and 23 first downs to the Rebels' 179 and seven, and held the ball 35:24 compared to Ole Miss's 24:35.
But four Commodore fumbles by Jackson-Garrison, Mackenzi Adams, George Smith, and Alex Washington, plus a game-sealing interception of Adams by Charles Clark, did the Commodores in-all against an Ole Miss defense that ranked next-to-last in NCAA Division One in turnovers forced (four) entering the game.
Throw in a botched punt that the freshman Brett Upson never had a chance to get off, later leading to an Ole Miss score, and two missed field goals of 35 and 36 yards by Bryant Hahnfeldt, and the recipe for disaster was complete.
The Commodores five turnovers was two less that the team total for the previous three games.
"I can't [explain it]," said Jackson-Garrison. "I'm dumbfounded right now. It's unacceptable."
The Commodores set the storyline for the game early, driving deep into Ole Miss territory on the game's second possession. A Chris Nickson completion to George Smith moved Vandy to the Ole Miss 28, but Smith fumbled, and the Rebels picked it up and returned it to the Commodore 44.
On the next Vanderbilt offensive series, the Commodores went three-and-out, and sent Upson in to punt. Upson, swarmed by a heavy Ole Miss rush, was unable to get off a punt and tackled at the Commodore 17.
Four plays later, a Green-Ellis one-yard touchdown and an extra point gave Ole Miss a 14-0 lead.
Vanderbilt answered when Nickson led the 'Dores on a 10-play, 84-yard drive capped by Nickson's 18-yard touchdown pass to Sean Walker, the first score of Walker's career. The play came on a third-and-four, and Walker wiggled out of several tackles before finding his way to paydirt.
Ole Miss's Mico McSwain returned the ensuing kickoff to the Vandy 18, but the Commodores held Brent Schaeffer for no gain at a fourth-and-2 from the Commodore 10, and took over on downs.
Later in the half, Vanderbilt also squandered a scoring drive. Reshard Langford picked off Schaeffer and returned the ball to the Ole Miss 16, but missed a 35-yard Bryant Hahnfeldt field goal attempt.
With Nickson (11-13, 95 yards, one touchdown, 51 yards rushing) missing the second half with a sprained ankle, backup quarterback Adams marched the Commodores up and down the field.
But sooner or later, the Commodores would self-destruct. Jackson-Garrison fumbled the half's first possession at the Vandy 42, ending that drive. Washington fumbled a punt return at the VU 38 when a teammate blocked a Rebel into him, and Adams lost a fourth-quarter fumble at the Ole Miss 10
Still, the Commodores had a chance to win with under a minute to play. Adams hit Earl Bennett over the middle on a 44-yard throw, then scrambled 11 yards on the next play to the Ole Miss 22.
But on the next play, Adams misread the defensive set and was picked by Clark, and the Rebels then ran out the clock without a snap on the change of possession.
Hahnfeldt's second field goal miss was also costly. It came in the third quarter, and squandered a 17-play, 69-yard drive that consumed 7:34.
Adams was 10-20 for 176 yards in his first significant action at quarterback. Johnson said that Nickson was unavailable for the second half with a thigh bruise and a sprained ankle.
Bennett led the Commodores with a team-high 10 catches for 179 yards, and Adams led in rushing with 51 yards.