Ryan Hamilton tied a school record with three interceptions, scored a touchdown on an interception return and saved a score with a goal-line tackle to help Vanderbilt beat Mississippi 23-17 on Saturday.
The Commodores intercepted four of Jevan Snead's passes to put themselves in position to be ranked for the first time since 1984 by surviving an early and odd Rebels scoring flurry. Vanderbilt was one spot out of the Top 25 entering the week and is 4-0 for just the fourth time since World War II.
But the Commodores (2-0 Southeastern Conference) needed a pair of goal-line stands and a final interception as time expired to win.
The Rebels (2-2, 0-1) appeared as if they might run away early after forcing a fumble deep in Vanderbilt territory with a 10-0 lead. But Hamilton stepped in front of Snead's pass and returned it 79 yards for a score.
His second interception of Snead and 23-yard return helped set up a field goal that rallied Vanderbilt to a 17-17 halftime tie. The Commodores could only manage two more Bryant Hahnfeldt field goals in the second half, but Hamilton and the defense made it stand up.
Hamilton made a crucial tackle on Ole Miss' first series of the second half, when he caught running back Cordera Eason from behind on fourth-and-inches at the goal line. Hamilton later recovered a fumble on a punt return to negate another Ole Miss drive and finished the game off with a pick on Snead's pass around the Vanderbilt 10.
Hamilton also recovered a fumble, but wasn't the only playmaker on the Commodores defense. Reshard Langford killed another drive with a bobbling interception of Snead at midfield, then Chris Marve finished off another Rebels' goal-line chance for a rally when he forced Dexter McCluster to fumble into the end zone. D.J. Moore fell on the loose ball with 2:40 left.
If ranked Sunday, the Commodores will be the sixth SEC team in the poll and the eighth to be ranked at some point this season. Vanderbilt was ranked as high as 19th in 1984 after starting 4-0.
Ole Miss had plenty of chances to pick up the program's 600th victory after an early fumble return by Peria Jerry and a kickoff return by Mike Wallace put the Rebels up 17-7. But six turnovers, poor play from an out-of-sync Snead, who finished 12-of-25 for 184 yards in his first bad game, and seven penalties for 82 yards sent them to their ninth straight SEC loss and 13th in the last 14 games.
Hahnfeldt tied a career high with three field goals, hitting from 34, 31 and 40 yards.