College football’s opening night on Aug. 29 centered around the SEC. Since the end of every college football season is about the SEC, it made perfect sense to put it front and center at the start too. But while the season’s opening game featured the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks and Heisman favorite Jadeveon Clowney, the unranked Ole Miss Rebels and Vanderbilt Commodores put on the bigger show.
After South Carolina cruised past the North Carolina Tar Heels by 27-10, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt went back and forth until the Rebels struck last in a 39-35 win. The night looked like it would be easier for Ole Miss when it jumped to a 10-0 lead, yet Vanderbilt rebounded with 21 quick second quarter points. However, the Rebels clawed back to take a 32-28 lead in the fourth.
The Commodores seemed to be on the ropes as they faced a fourth-and-18 late in the fourth. But after batting cramps and after throwing up following a hard hit just plays earlier, star receiver Jordan Matthews hauled down a 42-yard fourth down conversion. Right afterwards, a 34-yard touchdown pass to Steven Scheu seemed to wrap up a storybook win for the Commodores.
However, Vanderbilt left Ole Miss far too much time. In fact, all the Rebels needed was one 75-yard run from Jeff Scott to take back a 39-35 lead. Nevertheless, it appeared the Rebels left the Commodores too much time after that, as a kickoff return and a facemask penalty put Vanderbilt at its own 49. Yet two plays later, a pass went through Matthews’ hands and landed into those of Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt instead.
Although Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are among the few SEC teams not in the preseason top 15, these seemingly second tier programs put on the show of opening night. As for the highly regarded Gamecocks and Clowney, they had a more workmanlike win over the Tar Heels, with the biggest suspense coming from a fourth quarter lightning storm and Clowney’s lingering stomach virus.
The Gamecocks will need more in a much bigger test at No. 5 Georgia on Sept. 7. After that, they host none other than the Commodores, who hope that their heartbreaking loss to the Rebels hasn’t already put them behind the eight ball.