BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Now Hugh Freeze has an idea of what Mississippi coaching great Johnny Vaught must have felt like a little more than a half-century ago.
Freeze was on the brink of a landmark victory in Death Valley in his first season as Ole Miss coach, only to watch Odell Beckham Jr. run right by him during an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown that erased the Rebels' last lead in a 41-35 loss to No. 8 LSU on Saturday.
"I've been coaching a long time, maybe not at this level, but this here is one of the most difficult locker rooms to be in this year," Freeze said. "Our kids just fought for our university and our fans and they should be proud of that. We just can't seem to get that stop when we have to have one, or that touchdown when we have to have one."
Vaught was Ole Miss coach back in 1959, when Billy Cannon famously returned a punt 89 yards against the Rebels, down the same sideline, in the same quarter, to lift LSU to a classic victory in the more than century-old rivalry.
Beckham eluded numerous tacklers, slipping one as he traversed the field, then broke away from pursuers down the right sideline toward the north end zone while teammate Jarvis Landry waved him along with windmill motion.
"Everyone had their block, everyone had their man and everyone covered their assignments," Beckham said. "I saw a crease and I just hit it. ... It was an amazing experience and definitely changed the momentum of the game."
The punt return tied the game at 35, but LSU (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) still needed a pair of clutch sacks by Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards to drive Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) out of routine field goal range later in the fourth quarter. Bryson Rose then pushed a 53-yard kick wide right, and LSU marched for the winning score on Jeremy Hill's 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace passed for 310 yards and two TDs and ran for two scores, but also was intercepted three times. His touchdowns went Donte Moncrief, the first for 56 yards and the second for 30. Wallace's first score came on a 58-yard run.
"Everything we were doing was working," Wallace said. "We executed for the most part, but there were still times that we were shooting ourselves in the foot. We have to eliminate that."