NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Houston Nutt put his arms on his hips, crossed them, and went back and forth. While assistant coaches yelled at players, the University of Mississippi coach had a frown on his face.
Nutt failed to help his job security Saturday in a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Ole Miss dropped its eighth straight SEC opener and fell to 1-2. Since Nutt began his stint at Ole Miss with consecutive 9-4 seasons and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories, the Rebels are 5-10 in the past two seasons, leading to speculation about Nutt”s future.
“I”m just real disappointed, very disappointed because I know we”re better than that,” Nutt said.
Scoreless midway through the second quarter, Vanderbilt scored 21 points in the final six minutes before halftime. The Commodores (3-0) now have won five of the past seven games in this series.
The Rebels had five turnovers, six penalties, and a bevy of missed tackles.
Starting quarterback Zack Stoudt was intercepted five times, twice by Trey Wilson, who returned one interception 52 yards for a touchdown. Nutt used Randall Mackey most of the third quarter before bringing Stoudt back in the fourth, when the junior was intercepted twice more. Barry Brunetti, who started the team”s season opener against BYU, didn”t play, while Stoudt was 13 of 26 for 139 yards and Mackey was 2 of 4 for 10 yards.
The Rebels had four false start penalties by three offensive linemen. Center A.J. Hawkins also sailed a snap high over Mackey”s head early in the third quarter, leading to a safety when Jeff Scott kicked it through the end zone.
Nutt said he was most disappointed in the offense after a good week of practice. He even got senior running back Brandon Bolden back from a hairline fracture in his left ankle in the opening loss to BYU. Bolden ran eight times for 39 yards.
“We could never get anything in synch, could never get anything going offensively,” Nutt said. “That”s what was frustrating. Just looked bad, looked really bad.”
Wayne Dorsey had one of the Rebels” two sacks and also caused a fumble, one of three turnovers Ole Miss forced.
The margin of victory was the largest for the Commodores in an SEC game since beating Mississippi State 49-19 in 1971. It also marked the first time Vanderbilt led an SEC opponent by at least 21 points since Oct. 2, 2004, against Mississippi State.
James Franklin also became the first Vanderbilt coach to win his SEC opener since Ray Morrison beat Mississippi State in 1935 — three years after the SEC was founded.
Franklin got emotional as he spoke of how this win is for his players and coaches who have worked hard to improve.
“We are really, really proud of these kids,” Franklin said as tears ran down his cheeks. “That win is for our loyal fans that have showed up here for a long time, looking for something to believe in, so I”m just really proud. I don”t know what the stats are. I don”t really know what the score is, but it is a win.”
Vanderbilt won only two games in each of the past two seasons, and this marks Vanderbilt”s first 3-0 start since 2008 when the Commodores won their first bowl since 1955. Franklin is the first Vandy coach to start 3-0 since World War II.
Vanderbilt outgained Ole Miss 387-234 in total offense. Jerron Seymour”s 9-yard touchdown run capped the second-quarter scoring for Vanderbilt, and Zac Stacy also ran for 169 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown run.
“We were pressing too hard, trying to make too much happen,” said Stoudt, who threw a 47-yard touchdown to Donte Moncrief to avoid a shutout.
The Commodores got going late in the second and took control.
Stacy picked up 26 yards after quarterback Larry Smith handed the ball off to the running back using his left, non-throwing hand, almost directly behind him in a bit of nice misdirection. Smith finished the drive on an option keeper for 19 yards and a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
“We knew coming in that we could get a running game established,” Stacy said. “We got that executed and got some big plays.”
Nutt rotated Stoudt back in on the next series. Facing third-and-15, defensive end Walker May hurried Stoudt into a throw that went straight to Wilson, and the Vanderbilt cornerback ran it back up the left sideline for a 14-0 lead with 4:39 remaining. It was Wilson”s second touchdown off an interception this season and the third overall for Vanderbilt — the first time the Commodores have had three of those in a season.
After another Ole Miss three-and-out, Seymour pushed his way in to finish off a 9-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead that had Commodores” fans celebrating a rare early lead.
The Commodores picked up the scoring early in the third when a bad snap went over Stoudt”s head on the opening series. Jeff Scott kicked it through the end zone for a safety and a 23-0 lead. The rout could have been worse. Stacy tried to throw to Larry Smith in the end zone only to be picked off by Marcus Temple after the safety.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.