The Ole Miss Rebels opened the home portion of the Ed Orgeron era Saturday night. But it wasn't the Oxford debut any in red and blue had hoped for.
The Rebels fell to visiting Wyoming 24-14 in a game that might not have been as close as the final score indicated.
Wyoming dominated the stats, including first downs 18-10, total yards 383 to 282, and time of possession 37:01 to 22:59. The Rebels had four turnovers, Wyoming one. There wasn't much positive to look back on after this one for Ole Miss.
"It was a very poor performance by our football team tonight," said first-year UM head coach Ed Orgeron. "We got whipped up front offensively and defensively. We had very poor execution, I thought, at times. Obviously we have a lot of work to do."
It was the starting debut for Robert Lane, the third-year sophomore quarterback for the Rebels who replaced the injured Micheal Spurlock. But before this one was over, Spurlock would have to come into the game to try to get a save for the Rebs.
Spurlock, the fifth-year senior who started the Rebels' first two games this season, entered the contest against Wyoming at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter with his team down 16-7 after Lane had thrown an interception on the Rebels' previous drive. Wyoming scored another touchdown and made a two-point conversion before Spurlock could get the Rebs on the scoreboard.
"I thought Micheal coming in gave us a little spark," Orgeron said of Spurlock, who was 5-of-14 for for 83 yards and a touchdown with one interception. "But it was nowhere near what we needed. I was really disappointed in the overall execution by our whole team. It's all a matter of execution."
Lane finished the game 7-of-15 for 37 yards with two interceptions.
While the offense struggled, Orgeron saw some positives from the Rebel defense.
"Our defense played on the short field a bunch," Orgeron said. "We held them to eight points on the four turnovers. I was kind of proud of the way the defense played, but we just couldn't seem to get it together."
Ole Miss went up 7-0 on its second possession of the game, a 4-play, 77-yard drive that took just two minutes.
As has been the case often this year, the Rebels' score came on a big play. Mico McSwain took a pitch from Robert Lane and raced 60 yards through a hole on the right side of the offensive line for a touchdown. The extra point was good by Robert Bass as 7:15 remained in the first quarter.
But from that point on, Wyoming dominated every facet of the contest. Only a late score, a 41-yard pass from Spurlock to Mike Espy with 1:33 left on the clock closed a 24-7 gap to the final 10-point margin. Bass converted the extra point for the final score.
After the initial Rebels' score, the Cowboys tied the game 7-7 with 4:55 to go in the second quarter. Quarterback Corey Bramlet, who enginereed the Cowboys' 37-32 win over the Rebels in Laramie last season, led the Pokes 60 yards in eight plays, capped by a 5-yard Wynel Seldon run. Deric Yaussi was good on the extra point.
After the Rebels couldn't do anything on offense and punted back to the Cowboys, the visitors moved in for another touchdown in five plays. Starting from their own 29 after a Will Moseley punt of 58 yards, Bramlet led his offense back downfield and connected with Jovon Bouknight on a 29-yard pass for the score. A bad snap on the extra point meant the Cowboys led 13-7 with 50 seconds on the clock before halftime.
In the third period the Rebels got the football back, but disaster was only one snap away. Lane fumbled on the first play, forced by Cowboy John Flora, and the football was recovered by Adam Diehl for the Pokes at the UM 18. After only three plays, it was fourth and 27. Wyoming settled for a 53-yard Yaussi field goal that made it 16-7 with 13:04 left in the third.
Late in the third quarter, the Cowboys added their final points of the game. Bramlet passed to Wade Betschart for a 4-yard touchdown with six seconds to go in the third. Bramlet then hit Jason Wallace on the two-point play to make it 24-7 Wyoming.
Spurlock to Espy late for the final touchdown only made things look more respectable for Ole Miss. The outcome was no longer in doubt at that point.
The Rebels, 1-2, travel to Tennessee for an 11:30 a.m. CT kickoff Saturday, a Jefferson-Pilot TV game. Wyoming, 3-1, plays at UNLV next Saturday.
Wyoming dominates Ole Miss in 24-14 win
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