The Jackets traveled to Oxford, Mississippi for their first road test of the season in hopes of pulling an upset over the No. 17 Ole Miss Rebels. This game was the second of a home-and-home series between Tech and Ole Miss, and last year’s game was still fresh on Tech’s mind: a 42-0 loss in Bobby Dodd. With a mindset for a comeback and desire to show out , the Jackets took to Hollingsworth Field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for an electric night time showdown on Saturday, Sept. 16.
The Rebels elected to receive the opening kickoff after winning the coin toss and took control early. Ole Miss’ first drive was a swift two and a half minute progression down the field. The Jackets initially seemed to have no answer for anything Ole Miss’ offense threw at them, but Tech came up big on a third and four, breaking up a pass and forcing a field goal.
Down 3-0, redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King led the Jackets’ offense onto the field for their first possession of the night. Tech established a strong run game early as the offensive line opened holes for junior running back Trey Cooley and redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Haynes to find space. The drive stalled in Ole Miss territory and Head Coach Brent Key elected to try a field goal; however, the kick was blocked and returned to Tech’s 34-yard line, giving the Rebels excellent field position. Ole Miss mounted a quick drive that ended in a touchdown run from quarterback Jaxon Dart, putting the Rebels up 10-0 with three minutes to go in the first quarter.
King, looking composed and sure, led the Jackets down the field to the five-yard line but failed to get into the endzone on three tries. Faced with a big decision on fourth down, Key elected to keep the offense on the field in hopes of a momentum-swinging score. On fourth and goal, King took the snap, rolled to his right and fired to redshirt junior wide receiver Dominick Blaylock, who dropped the ball for a turnover on downs.
The Rebels took over and made the most of it as Dart led Ole Miss down to the redzone, but Tech’s defense held strong and forced a fourth-and-goal situation where Rebels Head Coach Lane Kiffin elected to leave his offense on the field as well. Dart hit his man square in the hands, but redshirt senior cornerback Myles Sims got a hand in the way. On offense, King once again marched the Jackets down into the red zone. With about a minute to go before halftime, redshirt freshman Aidan Birr came in and hit a field goal through the uprights to get Tech onto the scoreboard with Ole Miss leading 10-3 at half.
At half, Ole Miss outgained Tech in yards 209 to 203 while the Jackets dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for just over 20 minutes compared to Ole Miss’ nine. Tech received the second-half kickoff and did nothing with it as the game saw its first punt from either team. Ole Miss moved down the field and scored on a 21-yard touchdown run, making the score 17-3. After another Tech three and out, Ole Miss got the ball deep in Tech territory on a failed fake punt. A few plays later, Dart dove into the endzone to put the Rebels up 24-3.
Tech was in need of a momentum swing, and got it from true freshman wide receiver Eric Singleton Jr. He put the team on his back with two big catches, including a 51-yard bomb, that led Tech down to the redzone. King then scored on a one-yard keeper to put the game at 24-10. Tech’s defense then forced a timely three-and-out, getting the ball back to the offense to start the fourth quarter.
The Jackets swiftly moved down the field behind King, Cooley and Singleton making big plays. Faced with a fourth and eight from the Ole Miss 15 yard line, the offense stayed on the field where King lofted a ball to the right corner of the endzone to a wide open Singleton. Birr knocked the extra point through the uprights and it was just 24-17 with 10 minutes remaining. However, the game took a turn as Ole Miss produced a quick drive ending in a field goal, and after a Tech punt, the Rebels slung a 68 yard touchdown pass to go up 34-17. Tech once again faltered on offense and the Rebels once again took advantage, going up 41-17.
However, the Jackets did not quit and kept up the offensive. King led a drive that ended in a 14-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Avery Boyd. After a failed two point conversion, the score was 41-23. Ole Miss tacked on another touchdown in the end and the game concluded at 48-23, putting Tech at 1-2 on the year.
King finished 28 of 41 with 307 yards and two touchdowns. King has now thrown for 300 yards in two of three games, especially notable considering there have only been 30 300-yard passing games in Tech football history. Haynes ran for 72 yards on 19 carries, while Singleton had 97 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Tech will be back on the road against Wake Forest
on Saturday, Sept. 23.