BATON ROUGE -- An 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss on a Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium sparked a fourth-quarter comeback by the eight-ranked LSU football team, 41-35.
Odell Beckham's 89-yard punt return for a TD flipped momentum to LSU's side in the fourth quarter
Odell Beckham Jr. brought back memories of Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween night punt return of the same distance against the Rebels with a dazzling run that ended with a game-tying touchdown.
With four Rebels in front of him, Beckham Jr. fielded the punt at the 11 in the south end of Tiger Stadium. The sophomore darted to his left, getting a block from Jalen Collins that took out two defenders at the 13. He cut back right and broke a tackle by Ole Miss' Joel Knight at the 23, ran along the 25 yard line, dodging a tackle by Mike Marry. A block by Jalen Mills allowed Beckham Jr. to turn the ball upfield at the right hash, and another by Deion Jones at the LSU 45 put him in the backseat of a five-man escort to the endzone.
The point after touchdown tied the game at 35-35 with 9:10 to play, and running back Jeremy Hill scored his third touchdown with 15 seconds remaining that gave LSU (9-2, 5-2 SEC) its margin of victory.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger became the first Tiger to threw for 200-plus yards in three-straight games since Matt Flynn in 2007. The junior complete 22-of-37 passes for 282 yards. He was intercepted on consecutive throws in the third quarter, but overcame the mistakes to lead the Tigers to a 20th fourth-quarter comeback under head coach Les Miles.
Hill became the first true freshman to rush for three touchdowns in a game since Kevin Faulk (vs. North Texas, 1995). He had touchdown runs of 27, 1 and 1-yard, netting 77 yards on 20 carries. Spencer Ware added 55 yards including a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal that gave LSU its only lead of the first half, 17-14.
Tight end Travis Dickson, who entered the game with one career catch for 10 yards, led the Tigers with five catches for 69 yards. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry added 60 yards on four grabs while James Wright finished with 64 yards on three catches, not including a 50-yard pass that was called back by penalty.
LSU returns to action for the regular-season finale on Friday, Nov. 23, when it travels to face Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. CT in Fayetteville.
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) led for most of the game but gave up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter after building an eight-point lead.
Starting quarterback Bo Wallace split time with backup Barry Brunetti, with the former completing 15-of-35 passes for 310 yards. He also ran for a 58-yard touchdown for the Rebels first touchdown. He was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. Brunetti, who was used for his rushing ability, ran for 15 yards on eight carries and completed 1-of-2 passes for 6 yards.
Wallace was the Rebels' leading rusher, though running back Randall Mackey added 41 yards and Jeff Scott had 39. Wide receiver Donte Moncreif had game-highs of six catches for 161 yards and touchdown catches of 56 and 30 yards.
Ole Miss outgained LSU, 463-427.
The Rebels took it to the LSU defense with big plays in the opening quarter. A 58-yard scramble for a touchdown by Wallace gave Ole Miss a 7-0 lead with 10:16 remaining in the quarter.
However, LSU answered with a two-play, 75-yard drive that started with a 48-yard diving catch by Wright and ended with a 27-yard touchdown run by Hill. Only 21 seconds after the Ole Miss score, Drew Alleman tied the game at 7-7 with the PAT.
After a quick three-and-out by Ole Miss, Mettenberger connected with Dickson for 30 yards to the Rebels 37. The quarterback's scramble on third-and-5 came up short, and Alleman's 47-yard field goal attempt was missed just to the right.
Ole Miss took advantage of the miss when Wallace found Moncrief open on third-and-7. The 6-foot-3 receiver shook off a tackle by cornerback Tharld Simon and bolted 56 yards for a touchdown. Ole Miss regained the lead, 14-7.
After converting one first down on a short run by Ware, LSU went nowhere and punted. Brad Wing's 49-yard effort was muffed by Korvic Neat at the Ole Miss 16 and recovered by LSU linebacker Deion Jones at the 18.
After Hill gained a first down inside the 5, LSU wasn't able to punch in with two Hill runs. On third-and-goal from the 5, Mettenberger's pass in the endzone was ripped from Landry's grasp and LSU settled for a 22-yard field goal by Alleman that cut the deficit to 14-10 with 14:50 remaining in the half.
LSU's defense forced another turnover -- an interception by Jalen Collins off a deflected pass -- putting the offense in prime position once again.
This time, the Ware helped the Tigers take advantage. He caught an 11-yard screen to the 22, then used a cut-back run and a stiff arm for 14 yards to the 8. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Ware leaped over the pile to give LSU the lead for the first time, 17-14, with 9:57 left in the half.
Ole Miss changed the pace of the game by using backup quarterback Barry Brunetti's feet to get near midfield. The Tigers defense stepped up with a pass breakup by linebacker Micah Eugene on third-and-5, and Ole Miss punted only 14 yards.
The Tigers looked to strike quickly, as Mettenberger went over the top to Wright for 50 yards to the Ole Miss 9. But, center P.J. Lonergan was flagged for holding and LSU wasn't able to overcome the penalty.
With Wing's punt downed at the Ole Miss 3, Wallace returned to lead the Rebels on a 97-yard scoring drive that included a 24-yard pass on the first play. An 18-yard pass on third-and-9 to the Rebels 46 kept the drive alive, and a 20-yarder on fourth-and-4 put Ole Miss in scoring position. Wallace setup his own 1-yard scoring run with a 25-yard pass to Logan, and Ole Miss took a 21-17 lead into halftime.
In the opening moments of the third quarter, defensive end Sam Montgomery earned a sack just before Simon intercepted Wallace and returned the ball to the Ole Miss 20. Once again, the Tigers came up short in the redzone, as Hill lost three yards on third-and-goal from the 7. Alleman cut the LSU deficit to one, 21-20, with a 24-yard field goal at the 11:42 mark.
The Rebels' ensuing drive ended in three plays and a punt, giving LSU the ball at its 48. A 23-yard pass over the middle to Dickson moved LSU into Rebel territory, and a 22-yard pass to Boone on third-and-10 gave LSU a first down at the 14. On third-and-3 from the 7, Mettenberger looked to Landry for a first down pass inside the 5. However, rather than sitting down in the zone, the wide receiver abandonded his spot and the pass was intercepted by Golson in the endzone. The first offensive turnover in 332 plays cost LSU a chance at the lead.
Two possessions later, Ole Miss extended that lead after a Mettenberger inteception on a long pass into Ole Miss territory. Golson returned 21 yards to the LSU 38. On third-and-10, Wallace broke containment for a first down to the 24 and converted a fourth-and-3 from the 17 with an 8-yard pass. Two plays later, a read-option handoff to Mackey went for a 6-yard touchdown that gave Ole Miss a 28-20 lead with 50 seconds left in the quarter.
A crazy fourth quarter -- which started at 5:34 p.m., just 27 minutes after sunset -- started with consecutive scoring drives, as the Tigers tied the game at 28-28 momentarily before Ole Miss took the lead back with a 28-second drive.
LSU's points came on the heels of an 88-yard drive which a 22-yard catch and run by Boone to the 1-yard line. Hill ran around the left side for a touchdown, and Ware caught the two-point conversion to tie the game. However, after a kickoff out of bounds, Wallace found Sanders for 35 yards to the LSU 30. On third-and-10, Wallace drew LSU offsides and then took advantage of the free play to connect with Moncrief for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Ole Miss regained the advantage, 35-28, with 11:11 left.
Mettenberger took a hit and was forced to exit the game for a third-and-5 play on the ensuing drive. His backup, Stephen Rivers, threw high of his target and LSU punted.
The Rebels also went three-and-out, forcing a punt. LSU brought pressure against Ole Miss punter Jim Broadway, but he was able to get the kick away.
Beckham Jr. brought the crowd to life with his 89-yard return, and the PAT tied the game again, this time at 35-35, with 9:10 to play.
Later, Ole Miss punted again but Beckham Jr. managed only three yards to the LSU 33. After a 30-yard catch and run by Landry, the ball was stripped from behind by Ole Miss' Mike Hilton and recovered by Marry at the Rebels 32.
LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan sacked Wallace for an 11-yard loss on the next play, but Logan was flagged for facemask. From his 47, Wallace sat in the pocket and found Mackey alone along the right sideline for 37 yards to the LSU 16. Consecutive sacks by Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards proved huge in the outcome, as Ole Miss placekicker Bryson Rose was forced to attempt a 53-yarder that sliced to the right.
With all the momentum, LSU's offense returned to the field and worked its way into Ole Miss territory in the final two minutes with a 6-yard run by Ware on third-and-1. On third-and-3 from the 42, a 7-yard pass from Mettenberger to Boone gave LSU a key first down to the 35. On the next play, Mettenberger was hit by linebacker Nicholas Nkemdiche, who was flagged for roughing the passer. With a first down at the 20, LSU was content to run the clock and run right at the Rebels. Hill's 16-yard run around the left end put the ball on the 2, and the freshman scored for the third time from 1 yard out with 15 seconds to play.
With 12 seconds remaining after a short kickoff return, Ole Miss' final drive went nowhere and the Tigers celebrated the Senior Day victory.