On a day where the Rebels (3-7) used a third-quarter spurt and a final first down to outlast Northwestern State (3-6) by a final of 38-31, the attendance or lack there of garnered more attention than the inconsistent, lethargic action on the playing field. Ole Miss officials announced a crowd total of 23,283 and even that lowly number was high when BenJarvus Green-Ellis plunged into the line to run out the clock and preserve the win.
Chancellor Robert Khayat publicly declared numerous times during the past week that Ed Orgeron would lead the Rebels next season, and the head coach's team responded with a victory – even though only a relative handful of well-wishers witnessed it.
"I have to worry about the play of my team," Orgeron said. "I am really glad to see the guys that were there. I am appreciative of those guys and the ones in the grove. I am appreciative of those in the stadium that watched us play. Those are the guys I am appreciative of."
Ole Miss used offensive first and third quarters to separate the two teams and score more than 30 points in a game for the first time since a 31-28 triumph at South Carolina in 2004. It is also the most points achieved since Eli Manning led the Rebels to a 43-40 win also against the Gamecocks in 2003.
The most points under Orgeron were nearly all required as the Demons put up all 31 after halftime, including a 37-yard touchdown pass from Drew Branch to Kedr Seastrunk with 3:16 remaining in the game. The attendance was personified when a Demon manager went into the student section and was able to catch the ball following the extra point.
That score pulled Northwestern State into a one-possession game, but they would get no closer as Brent Schaeffer converted a third down on the ensuing drive and Green-Ellis took a handoff, finishing off the final two seconds.
The final count was completely opposite of the first half with Ole Miss building a 17-0 advantage thanks to three- straight first quarter scores.
A pass to Jason Cook moved the Rebels into NW State territory, and Green-Ellis broke the scoreless tie with a 41-yard scamper at the 10:10 mark in the opening period.
Josh Shene added a 24-yard field goal on the next drive before Green-Ellis struck again with a scoring run from 25 yards out.
The halftime lead appeared to be safe, but the Demons erased that thought with two straight touchdowns after the break. A 28-yard run by Dudley Guice and a 16-yard pass from Germayn Edmond to Adam Varnado cut the Rebel lead to three points.
To Ole Miss' credit, the offense woke back up and regained the three-score command over the following three minutes.
Mike Wallace took the kickoff following the NW State score and raced 70 yards to the end zone. After a defensive stand, the Rebels produced a 46-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard connection between Schaeffer and Shay Hodge on a fade route.
Schaeffer played the rest of the way after replacing Adams on the final series of the opening half. He finished a less than mediocre 3-of-13 for 61 yards. Adams ended his day 7-of-15 for 113 yards and an interception.
"Brent throws a better deep ball," Orgeron said. "That is the reason we put him in. To get some firepower on the offense. That was the thought process."
Green-Ellis added another score in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard run, but his first-career 3-TD game was overshadowed by 17 Demon points in the final period.
The senior finished with 120 yards on 17 carries and is 30 yards from reaching 1,000 for the second consecutive season. Bruce Hall added nine carries and 58 yards.
Hodge topped all receivers with 88 yards.
Ole Miss may be the more victorious squad, but the final stat sheet was titled in NW State's favor. The Demons accumulated 499 total yards and more than 37 minutes of time of possession. This compared to 387 and 22:19 for the Rebels.
Jamarca Sanford and Dustin Mouzon led Ole Miss with 13 and 10 tackles respectively. Former Ole Miss player Gary Riggs paced the visitors with seven stops.
The Rebels now go into a bye week before entertaining LSU in two weeks.
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