Shutout Important

NEW ORLEANS - It truly is hard to gauge how improved the Rebel defense was from last week's 66-31 loss to Texas to this week's 39-0 win against Tulane. Stats are about all we can go by. From that aspect, the Rebels got a lot better.

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Start with the shutout. After that how about 159 yards of total offense for Tulane?

The Rebels (3-1) constantly pressured Green Wave freshman quarterback Devin Powell. Making his first start, Powell was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. Tulane (0-3) also struggled to run, finishing with 14 net yards.

The Rebels stopped Tulane deep on a couple of occasions, the last an interception in the end zone late to keep the shutout. Earlier in the game, the Rebel defenders had stopped the Green Wave short of a touchdown on a fourth and goal play at the 2.

Charles Sawyer, who moved to cornerback this week, said defensively the Rebels better Saturday.

"It was big to get a shutout," Sawyer said. "The coaches preached that, and we came out here and got it. It just seemed like everybody was on the same page."

It was the Rebels' first shutout of a foe since beating Mississippi State 45-0 four seasons ago.

Two-Point Tries

The Rebels decided to go for two points after their first touchdown. When that failed, they decided to go for two points again after their second touchdown.

When that failed and they led 12-0, they decided to just kick extra points again.

From that point on, Ole Miss went with extra point kicks by Bryson Rose, which were all successful. Rose was also 2-for-2 on field goals (40 and 47 yards) in the game.

Freeze said there was method to his two-point madness early in this one.

"That's kind of who you get with me," he said. "I like to show a few of those things from time to time just to let people know we could do that at anytime."

A First for Nkemdiche

Denzel Nkemdiche had his first interception as a Rebel. That came in the first quarter as he picked off Tulane quarterback Devin Powell at the Green Wave 35 and returned it eight yards. Three plays later, the Rebels scored on a Bo Wallace to Donte Moncrief pass for 23 yards and a score. The extra point by Rose was good, and Ole Miss led 26-0 with 1:24 still to go in the opening period.

"Mine came as kind of a gift," he said. "I was just hustling to the ball, and it kind of popped up there. I was excited. My first college interception ever. That felt real good."

But it was early in the game, and a shutout was still a ways away.

"Coach (Dave) Wommack told us at the beginning of the week, the goal this week is a shutout," Nkemdiche said. "That's what every player wanted. It's bigtime confidence for us going into this next week."

Mission accomplished, in a big way. A shutout way. But it didn't happen until Chief Brown intercepted a late pass in the Rebels' end zone.

"Everybody was excited," Nkemdiche said of Brown's shutout saving moment. "That's my roommate and one of my best friends. He needed that play to build is confidence going into SEC play."

Big first quarter; sloppy play after that

The Rebels had a sloppy second quarter. Ole Miss had quite the comfortable lead when the first quarter ended. But the second quarter, save for one goal-line stand which resulted in the Rebels taking the football back at their own 2-yard line, was ugly.

It wasn't just the second quarter that concerned OC Dan Werner, even though his offense was mostly productive. It was not taking care of the football. Ole Miss fumbled six times and lost three.

"It was a very nice win," said Werner, "but you look back on it and the thing in my mind is all the turnovers and putting the ball on the ground. That's inexcusable."

And won't be anything but trouble in the weeks ahead if it continues as the competition gets a whole lot tougher.

"Last week it was interceptions, this week it was fumbles," Werner said. "I've got to look at the film and see what we're doing. I've got to do a better job as their coach to make sure we're protecting the football."

Still the first-half stats weighed heavily in the Rebels' favor. In total yardage it was Ole Miss 243 to Tulane 52. Rushing yardage was simply more than one-sided as the Rebels had 151 yards and Tulane minus-25. First downs had Ole Miss with a 15 to 6 advantage, and on third downs, Ole Miss converted six of eight, while Tulane was only one of 10.

The Rebels ended up with 450 yards of total offense for the game, with 304 of that number coming on the ground.

More Rebs-Wave games?

The win for Ole Miss was the 11th in a row in this ancient series and gives the Rebels a 43-28 lead through the years, which dates back to the 1890s.

Ole Miss and Tulane have two games remaining in the current series, both set to be played in Oxford. Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said after the game he is open to future discussions with the Green Wave, especially after what he witnessed in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday.

He estimated at least 10,000 Rebel fans in the building.

Ole Miss fans do seem to enjoy trips to New Orleans for football. Of course, for south Mississippi Rebels, it's a trip they can make with relative ease.

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