Ole Miss is the type of SEC opponent Vanderbilt has not seen in some time. The Rebels have a losing streak against the Commodores.
A 24-17 victory last season in Oxford, Miss., was Vanderbilt’s second straight in the series. It followed a 31-17 triumph a year earlier in Ole Miss’ last visit to Nashville.
Thus the Rebels are the first SEC team in more than a decade that is faced with trying to reverse a trend against the Commodores, when the teams play 6 p.m. Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium (ESPNU-Comcast Ch. 272).
“It does help,” Commodores defensive tackle Greg Billinger said of the recent success. “You look back on the film from last year and we’re going to bring that same intensity that we did to their stadium. We just have to maintain it this year.”
The Commodores have not won three in a row against a conference rival since they took five consecutively from Kentucky beginning in 1991.
Yet this is the first of two opportunities this season to stretch a streak to three. Vanderbilt also has won its last two against South Carolina, which it will face Oct. 24 in Columbia, S.C.
The current run against the Rebels was built on turnovers.
Last season Vanderbilt had six takeaways — four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. One of the interceptions was returned 79 yards for a touchdown by safety Ryan Hamilton, who will miss this game with an injury.
“We went down there and — call it an upset or whatever — but we went down there, played hard and came up with a victory,” safety Sean Richardson said. “I know they’re going to come in here and try to get revenge. Plus, them coming off a loss, they’re going to try to redeem themselves. I know they’re going to play hard.”
One difference that Commodores’ coach Bobby Johnson already sees in Ole Miss is in the play of quarterback Jevan Snead.
It was Snead who threw all four interceptions — and completed just 12 of 25 passes — last season, his first as a starter after having transferred from the University of Texas. In three games this season, Snead has thrown just two interceptions and has six touchdown passes.
“(Last year) it was his third or fourth game starting,” Johnson said. “He didn’t have a lot of experience. We usually throw a lot at quarterbacks. One interception was a desperation throw at the end of the game. Another, he was rushed and in the grasp of somebody. So they all weren’t his fault.”
Second-year Rebels’ coach Houston Nutt hopes to craft a reversal of fortune for his team but has to do so in spite of some things he knows will not change.
“They are always sound,” Nutt said of the Commodores. “… I’ve been going against Bobby Johnson for a long time and you know that you are going to have a hard-fought ballgame. The number one thing they do is they play extremely hard.”