OXFORD, Mississippi (Ticker) -- It did not take long for Erik Ainge to bounce back from a costly mistake.
Soon after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, Ainge tossed a go-ahead 30-yard touchdown to Bret Smith with 6:58 remaining to lift No. 14 Tennessee to a 21-17 victory over Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi.
Gerald Riggs ran 23 times for 106 yards and a score for the Volunteers (5-1, 3-1 SEC East), who have won 11 in a row over the Rebels (3-4, 2-2 West).
Tennessee held a 14-0 lead after the first quarter but Ole Miss chipped away and grabbed a 17-14 edge with 11:01 left when safety Bryan Brown jumped in front of Ainge's pass to Chris Hannon and ran untouched 34 yards into the end zone.
"I saw (Ainge) rolling out to the right and he usually throws it back to the split end," Brown said. "I just read it, picked it off and took it to the house."
"As soon as I threw the pick, Coach (Vols coach Phillip Fulmer) told me to forget about it," Ainge said. "We did a good job of looking past the last play. We don't dwell on a good or a bad play. We just keep fighting."
But Ainge, a true freshman, marched the Vols 83 yards on nine plays, connecting with Smith on a slant pattern just over four minutes after his costly pick. Ainge completed just 14-of-30 passes for 231 yards.
"Erik is a tough quarterback," Fulmer said. "He's not going to let too much get him down."
It was the only catch of the game for Smith, who has a team-high five TDs this season but only 10 catches.
After Ole Miss and Tennessee traded possessions, the Rebels got the ball back deep in their own territory with just over a minute remaining. But on the next play, Ethan Flatt was intercepted by safety Brandon Johnson for the second time in the contest, and the Vols ran out the clock.
"This is a tough loss," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. "We have to put it behind us. We have an open date, which comes at a good time. We need to get some healing done and we need to get better at a few things."
Flatt was 10-of-20 for 147 yards without a touchdown.
"They are no doubt the best defense we've seen this year," Flatt said of the Vols. "Their front seven is NFL-caliber. It's hard to get passes off and run the ball against that type of front seven."
Tennessee got the ball first and marched down the field and scored. Jabari Davis capped the nine-play, 78-yard drive with a one-yard TD run.
Following an interception by Johnson and a 19-yard pass on a fake punt, Tennessee opened a 14-0 cushion on a 21-yard run by Riggs with 8:09 left in the opening quarter.
Ole Miss halved the deficit on a one-yard run by Brandon Jacobs with 5:02 left in the half and pulled within 14-10 on Jonathan Nichols' 42-yard field goal with the same time left in the third. Nichols had missed a 30-yard kick early in the second period.
Former Tennessee standout Peyton Manning and his younger brother, former Ole Miss star Eli, were on their respective alma mater's sidelines.