Lane Kiffin finally gets signature win as Ole Miss outlasts LSU in shootout for the ages

OXFORD, Miss. — A record crowd clad in red turned up the noise in the fourth quarter.

All night, LSU’s Jayden Daniels had gutted the Ole Miss defense and left it for bones, but in this high-scoring, high-drama affair, the Rebels needed one stop — just one third-down stop — to give themselves a chance for the biggest win in Lane Kiffin’s tenure.

The fans sensed the moment. They brought the decibels. Ashanti Cistrunk brought the heat. Cistrunk sacked the slippery Daniels to force possession to Ole Miss.

That’s all these Rebels needed.

One big stop to put the ball back in Jaxson Dart’s hands. The quarterback took care of the rest. His 13-yard touchdown to Tre Harris in the final minute lit ablaze all that preseason hype for LSU and got the monkey off Kiffin’s back.

So good, Dart was. So good, in fact, that he, Harris and Quinshon Judkins caulked the fissures in the Ole Miss defense to deliver a 55-49 upset of No. 12 LSU on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

When Daniels’ final pass into the end zone fell incomplete, Rebels fans poured over the walls, pulled out their cell phones and recorded the celebration.

What a win for No. 20 Ole Miss. What a blur of offense.

Thriller doesn't even begin to describe this one.

Kiffin leaped with joy after a first-half touchdown. He pumped his fist after Ole Miss’ final trip across the goal line. And, I imagine, he felt some relief when the scoreboard clock finally hit zero.

No more can I write how Kiffin’s biggest win came nearly three years ago against Indiana. Landing a September knockout punch on rival LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC), a once-trendy College Football Playoff dark horse? Yeah, this trumps beating the Hoosiers. And this extinguishes any heat on Kiffin, who had been 1-5 in his previous six SEC games.

These teams combined for 760 yards in the first half alone. By the end: 1,348 yards of combined offense.

Defense optional? No, defense was prohibited. Tackling became a comedy act.

The only folks in the stadium who could have been bored were the punters.

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Even after Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1) took the lead with 39 seconds left, Daniels fast-tracked the Tigers to the Rebels’ 16-yard line.

Time ran out on the Tigers, and the SEC West race just gained an extra helping of intrigue.

Dart and Daniels traded completions and touchdowns as if they were on a quest to ensure the Pac-12 doesn’t claim all of the representation at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York.

These quarterbacks totaled 952 yards of offense. The Rebels needed every inch of what Dart supplied.

After Kiffin brought in two talented transfer quarterbacks in the offseason, Dart improved. This win is a testament to Dart standing tall amid the extra competition.

On Saturday, he kept firing completions into gaping holes in LSU’s secondary. When that wouldn’t do, he’d take off on designed runs or quarterback scrambles. He received an assist from Judkins. Ole Miss’ star running back had been silent for four weeks, but his talents reappeared against LSU's infirm defense.

Ole Miss' defense played like a liability for most of the night, but LSU’s said: Hold my beer.

And in the fourth quarter, the Rebels delivered more stops.

The tightrope is a dangerous place to take up residence, and Kiffins’ Rebels shoved the Tigers off that high wire.

Blake Toppmeyer is the USA TODAY Network's SEC Columnist. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Ole Miss defeats LSU in epic shootout, giving Lane Kiffin defining win