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Mississippi 24, Vanderbilt 21

8/30/2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Jonathan Nichols kicked a 54-yard field
goal with 3:52 left as Mississippi scored 10 unanswered points to
beat Vanderbilt 24-21 in the season opener Saturday.

Nichols' field goal gave the Rebels their first lead of the game
since 3-0 in the second quarter. He also had field goals of 51 and
20 yards in the second quarter as Ole Miss beat Vandy for the 10th
time in the last 11 games.

The Commodores have lost 18 straight Southeastern Conference
games dating back to November 2000. They had one last chance in the
final minute, but Charlie Anderson hit Jay Cutler twice, and Cutler
threw the ball away under pressure on fourth down.

Eli Manning threw for one touchdown and a 2-point conversion for
the Rebels, but he fumbled twice and receivers dropped several
passes. Vanderbilt sacked Manning twice and hit him repeatedly.

Manning was 22-of-33 for 275 yards. He also passed Kent Austin
as Ole Miss' career completions leader. He needed only 12 coming
into the game, and now has 576 for his career.

Vanderbilt outgained Mississippi in total offense with 399-370,
but the Rebels came through when it mattered.

The Commodores last led 21-14 at the beginning of the fourth
quarter on Cutler's 2-yard TD pass to Brandon Smith.

That is when Manning took over. He led the Rebels on a 75-yard
drive that he capped with a 23-yard TD pass to Mike Espy to tie the
game at 21. Then he completed three passes on the final drive to
set up Nichols' winning field goal.

The Commodores led 7-6 at halftime and could have had a bigger
lead if not for two turnovers deep in Ole Miss territory, including
an interception in the end zone.

Vanderbilt, with 10 sophomores starting on defense, held the
Rebels 48 yards of total offense in the first quarter. The
Commodores also forced Mississippi to settle for a field goal at
the end of the first half, stopping the Rebels three times from the
Vandy 2.