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Ta'amu's late TD pass lifts Ole Miss past Kentucky

 

By The Associated Press

 

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With seconds ticking off and just inches to work with in the left corner of the end zone, Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta'amu put the football just where D.K. Metcalf had to be. 

 

The lanky receiver jumped over Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson for the game-winning touchdown catch, making sure his feet stayed inbounds as he came down in the very tight space. 

 

"Jordan put it on the money," Metcalf said of the 7-yard touchdown with five seconds remaining, upheld on review, that pushed Ole Miss past Kentucky for a wild 37-34 victory on Saturday. "It was just up to me to turn around and make the play." 

 

Metcalf, Ta'amu and the Rebels converted clutch plays throughout a back-and-forth game that was best symbolized in the final minutes. Ole Miss (4-5, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) used the final 2 minutes, 14 seconds well, driving 71 yards in 14 plays and getting a fumble call overturned on a critical replay review that maintained possession and set up the game-winning score three plays later. 

 

Officials initially ruled that Ta'amu had fumbled the ball away to Kentucky as he came down on a keeper for first down inside the 10-yard line. The review determined that Ta'amu was down before the ball came out, giving the Rebels a reprieve that the junior quarterback took advantage of. 

 

"I knew that my elbow was on the ground or some part of my body was on the ground, so I wasn't really worried," Ta'amu said of the wait during replay. "I was just worried about the next play." 

 

After a first-down spike and an incompletion, Ta'amu found Metcalf with the touchdown to spark a huge celebration for the Rebels. Coming a week after Ole Miss lost 38-37 to Arkansas in the final seconds, players needed this lift and got it from many phases. 

 

On the brink of losing control with a 27-17 deficit early in the third quarter, Ole Miss stopped Kentucky (6-3, 3-3) on four-straight possessions despite the ejection of defensive end Breeland Speaks for targeting. Ole Miss rallied with 13 unanswered points for a 30-27 lead before Kentucky went ahead 34-30 on Benny Snell's 1-yard touchdown run. 

 

"You know we have to lock down coming out of halftime," linebacker DeMarquis Gates said. "We were just trying to get the ball in the offense's hands. We know they can score and put points on the board, so we were just trying to give it back to them throughout plays." 

 

Ta'amu took over and calmly led the Rebels downfield en route to finishing with Ole Miss career highs of 382 yards and four touchdowns -- including two to Metcalf, who had 83 yards on five catches. 

 

"They just continued to show up, continued to fight," Rebels coach Matt Luke said. 

 

The Rebels outgained Kentucky 473-455 and overcame three rushing touchdowns by Snell, who had 176 yards on 28 carries. 

 

"A very devastating loss," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "The bottom line is we didn't make enough plays in critical moments. They did. 

 

"I was proud of our offense taking it down and putting it in the end zone there. We came up fractions off, and it's a difficult loss."

 

 

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