NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Mississippi Rebels will need better than this from Jevan Snead against No. 3 Alabama. Not that coach Houston Nutt is complaining much after a win.
Snead passed for three touchdowns to overcome his three interceptions as No. 21 Mississippi bounced back Saturday night with a 23-7 victory over Vanderbilt.
“I think he would be the first to tell you that we can’t have some of those mistakes that he made in the second half,” Nutt said. “We were executing the offense very well to start, then we started forcing things and he needs to either drop it off to the back or throw it away.”
Snead threw for just one touchdown in last week’s 16-10 loss to South Carolina, a game that dropped the Rebels (3-1, 1-1 SEC) from a No. 4 ranking that had been their highest since 1970. He matched his season high with three TDs against Vanderbilt in helping the Rebels to their best start since 2002 when they opened 5-1.
“Last weekend at South Carolina was very disappointing for us, so we had to pull it back together,” Nutt said. “We needed this win tonight in the worst way.”
The Commodores (2-3, 0-2) picked off four Snead passes a year ago in Oxford, Miss. They nearly matched that with Jamie Graham, Casey Heyward and Myron Lewis each intercepting a pass.
But Ole Miss’ Marcus Temple intercepted Larry Smith in the end zone with 10:55 left to help preserve a 23-7 lead.
The Rebels host the Crimson Tide next Saturday in a crucial SEC West showdown.
Mississippi outgained Vanderbilt 397-240 and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes. The Commodores disintegrated twice inside the Ole Miss 20 in the first half. They missed two field goal attempts and finished with an uncharacteristic 12 penalties for 74 yards—their most since 14 on Oct. 12, 2003.
“It was disheartening for the team and our fans,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Ole Miss did its part, sacking Smith four times. Nutt said he thought his defense was outstanding, though Vandy had scored only 12 points combined in its two previous SEC games.
“We put their offense in some bad situations tonight,” Nutt said.
Snead came in having completed 49.3 percent of his passes and ranked 65th nationally in passing efficiency. He looked much more like the quarterback who led the Rebels to a Cotton Bowl win as he guided them to three scoring drives in the first half, and he did it against a Vanderbilt defense that came in ranked third nationally in passing efficiency defense.
He had two TD passes in the second quarter. His best throw of the night, a 48-yarder down the right sideline to Shay Hodge on third-and-16, set up his 12-yard TD pass to Brandon Bolden for a 17-0 halftime lead.
He made it 23-0 by capping the Rebels’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 7-yard TD to Hodge, his second of the game. Snead finished 19 of 34 for 237 yards, all season highs. The three interceptions also were a season high, and Snead said he forced a couple.
“That’s just something I will have to watch film for and just throw the ball away next time that happens,” Snead said.
Johnson said Snead played much better than a year ago, making some tough throws into tight coverage.
“That’s hard to beat when somebody’s throwing that good. We switched up some coverages, and he didn’t seem to adjust much and threw us three of them,” Johnson said.
Vanderbilt came in with a defense ranked 19th nationally, giving up 266 yards, and nearly played its way back into the game with two interceptions after Ole Miss went up 23-0. Heyward’s interception midway through the third set up Vandy’s lone touchdown, a 7-yard pass from Smith to Udom Umoh for the receiver’s first career TD catch.
When Smith had a chance to cut into the Ole Miss lead again after a 48-yard run by Warren Norman to the Rebels 6, Temple tipped and intercepted a pass to end the threat early in the fourth.