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Calm and collected: DK Metcalf’s game-winning catch for Ole Miss ‘just DK being DK’

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Only one thought ran through D.K. Metcalf’s mind when the ball was in the air.

“It’s mine,” he said.

Turns out Ole Miss’ big-bodied receiver was right.

Seventy-one yards separated Ole Miss from a hard-fought road win in the Southeastern Conference or another bitter loss early Saturday night at Kroger Field, and Metcalf covered the final 7 to help Ole Miss survive a shootout with Kentucky, catching what proved to be the game-winning touchdown from Jordan Ta’amu with 5 seconds left in a 37-34 win. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore skied over cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. in the back of the end zone to come down with the ball, something that surprised no one who’s watched the former Oxford High standout through his first two years with the Rebels.

“I knew it was a touchdown,” Ta’amu said. “Just DK being DK out there. … That’s a basic, regular, routine catch for him.”

The drive came on the heels of Kentucky’s 12-play, 95-yard scoring march that put the Wildcats ahead with 2:15 left on Bennie Snell’s 1-yard plunge. Ole Miss drove the first 65 yards in 13 plays but was out of timeouts with 15 seconds left, leaving the Rebels with three passes to the end zone after Ta’amu’s first-down spike to stop the clock.

Those plays were designed for A.J. Brown, Metcalf and tight end Dawson Knox, offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. Ta’amu’s second-down pass to Brown in the end zone fell incomplete, but Ole Miss never had to call the do-or-die play for Knox when Metcalf, who was isolated on Johnson on the short side of the field, extended and came down with a foot inbounds in the back corner of the end zone.

“He’s an athletic size mismatch, and we had something going on the trips side and they overplayed that,” Longo said. “If you give us a matchup one-on-one on DK, we’re going to take it and they did. That kid made a monster play.”

Even a replay review, which confirmed the catch, couldn’t create any doubt.

“I knew I was in bounds,” Metcalf said.

It was the second of two scores on the day for Metcalf, who went for a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter. It was the first time he’d reached the end zone since the Auburn game on Oct. 7 while his most timely play helped the Rebels end their two-game losing skid.

“We’ve been hit in the mouth all year, and we’ve kept our composure in every situation,” Metcalf said.

Speaks ejected

Ole Miss played the second half without defensive end Breeland Speaks, who was ejected for targeting. Speaks led with his head while tackling Kentucky quarterback Steven Johnson midway through the second quarter. The call was upheld upon review.

Speaks had been one of the Rebels’ more productive defensive linemen of late, collecting 18 tackles and four sacks in the previous two games. He had two tackles, including 0.5 for a loss, before being disqualified Saturday.

Junior college transfer Markel Winters got most of the snaps opposite Marquis Haynes once Speaks left, but Speaks won’t miss any of next week’s game against Louisiana since the penalty happened during the first half.

Extra Points

Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke said running back Jordan Wilkins aggravated an ankle injury, which limited his carries in the second half. Wilkins finished with 42 yards on seven carries. … Alex Givens, who started at right guard, is going through concussion protocol. … Guard Daronte Bouldin may have suffered a broken foot, Luke said, but the injury will have to be evaluated further. … Gary Wunderlich’s three field goals tied a career-high for the senior placekicker.