NASHVILLE — The surgery went well.
Any doubts as to whether Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace would be effective this season after having his separated shoulder repaired in January were squelched during the 39-35 win at Vanderbilt that ended Friday morning.
Wallace, who sat out spring practice, completed 31 of 47 passes for 283 yards and rushed 18 times for 48 yards to lead an offense that totaled 489 yards on 84 plays.
"It feels great after a win," a beaming Wallace said minutes after the game. "I'll definitely have to get some treatment on it, but it feels good."
Had Wallace opted for a 19th carry, the Rebels might not be feeling so joyous. With less than 90 seconds remaining and Vanderbilt fans celebrating a 35-32 lead, the 6-foot-4, 209-pounder from Pulaski, Tenn., was planning to keep the ball on a zone read from the Ole Miss 25-yard line but handed off to tailback Jeff Scott.
Scott raced around left end and hugged the sideline before cutting back inside near midfield and racing past the Commodores secondary for the decisive 75-yard touchdown.
"Just like we planned," Rebels offensive coordinator Dan Werner said wryly. "Score 29 points in the second half and win it on a run play in a two-minute situation."
When asked about Wallace's busy night given his untested shoulder, Werner said, "The way he hurt it last year was trying to run over somebody, and tonight he took a slide a couple of times, ran out of bounds and was smart with the football."
Scott's scamper countered a 34-yard touchdown pass from Austyn Carta-Samuels to wide-open tight end Steven Scheu that gave the Commodores their three-point advantage. The play before the score, Carta-Samuels converted a fourth-and-18 with a 42-yard completion to Jordan Matthews, who battled cramps and had vomited just moments before.
Matthews had a career-high 178 yards on 10 catches for a program that was seeking its eighth consecutive win dating back to last season.
"The losses hurt bad," Commodores third-year coach James Franklin said. "I hate the losses more than you can possibly imagine."
Two years ago, Ole Miss was the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, going 0-8 in league play with seven double-digit defeats. The Rebels aren't the best now, but the win at Vanderbilt offered further proof that it's hard to find an SEC team more entertaining and intriguing.
The 5-foot-7, 162-pound Scott rushed for 138 yards, and the team's two leading receivers were freshmen. Laquon Treadwell, the nation's top-rated receiver in the 2013 class, had nine catches for 82 yards, while tight end Evan Engram added five receptions for 61 yards.
Treadwell's nine receptions were the most by any Ole Miss receiver since 2005.
"Those are big-time kids who stepped under the lights on national TV," Wallace said. "They're going to be great players."
Rebels defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the top overall prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, had two tackles, a tackle for loss and a tipped pass in his debut. The 6-4, 297-pounder also had an 11-yard run on a successful fake punt.
Ole Miss faces the brutal gauntlet of Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU after hosting Southeast Missouri next Saturday, so Scott's run and the comeback triumph were paramount from a mental standpoint. The Rebels are 1-0 in close games this season after going 1-3 a year ago.
"That's as big as it gets," Werner said. "We saw a defense where we felt like we could get a few yards on it, but no way do you call that thinking he's going to score. He kept going, and it looked like he was going to run out of bounds, and then it looked like a guy was going to tackle him. He willed himself into the end zone.
"We felt like we could make a positive play and then have a minute left."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...