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Nichols' 35-yard field goal is the difference

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- Jonathan Nichols' 35-yard field goal in
overtime lifted Mississippi past Vanderbilt 26-23 on Saturday.

The Rebels (1-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) went on defense
first in overtime and stopped Vanderbilt, forcing four
incompletions. Ole Miss then called three straight running plays to
set up Nichols' winner.

Nichols, who won the Lou Groza Award last year as the nation's
best kicker, was mobbed by his teammates, while the Commodores
crumpled to the ground after Nichols' fourth field goal of the game
sailed through.

Vashon Pearson ran for 111 yards and had a 54-yard touchdown run
for Ole Miss, which dodged its worst start in 21 years and beat
Vandy for the fifth straight time.

Sparked by new quarterback Ethan Flatt, the Rebels scored on
three straight possessions in the second half to erase a 23-10
deficit. Ole Miss tied it on Nichols' 34-yard field goal with 2:23
remaining.

Nichols had a chance to win it in regulation, but his 50-yarder
was short and wide right with :06 remaining.

Flatt, who made his first career start, was poised in the
clutch. He was 8-of-10 in the fourth quarter and finished 21-of-32
for 187 yards as the worst passing offense in the SEC showed marked
improvement.

Bill Flowers had 10 catches for 75 yards for the Rebels, who
entered averaging just 149 yards passing.

Jay Cutler passed for 131 yards and a touchdown and ran for
another score for the Commodores (0-2, 0-2), who looked well on
their way toward their first SEC road win since beating Kentucky in
2000.

But after taking a 13-point lead, penalties and poor execution
prevented Vandy from getting closer than the Rebels 27. Matthew
Tant's 66-yard touchdown run was called back on an illegal
procedure flag.

Flatt was sharp in replacing Micheal Spurlock, who was benched
late in last week's loss to Alabama and played just one series in
the second quarter against Vandy.

Norval McKenzie ran for 99 yards to lead the Commodores.

It was the second time Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have gone to
overtime. The Commodores won the previous overtime game in 1999,
Vanderbilt's only win in the series since 1993.