Tiger Tamers

The Houston Nutt era began on a winning note as Ole Miss beat Memphis 41-24 Saturday night before 56,127 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The Rebels and Tigers not only lit up the scoreboard but also moved up and down the field, amassing almost 900 yards of total offense – the Tigers with 453 and the Rebels with 438.

Nutt said it was special to get that first win at Ole Miss.

"It feels good," he said. "I want to first and foremost thank the crowd. The students brought a lot of energy. I was really pleased with the crowd."

As for his team, Nutt said there were some mistakes but overall he was happy about things.

"I was proud of our execution," he said of the offense. "I thought Jevan did some good things. I thought our freshmen showed a lot of maturity. Credit our offensive line. They did a good job of protection."

Nutt and offensive coordinator Kent Austin kept the Tigers' defense off balance, especially early. The Rebels threw the ball early, ran it effectively throughout, and used the Wild Rebel play several times - 10 times in the contest was the consensus - snapping it directly to Dexter McCluster and Brandon Bolden. On one successful play, Bolden took the snap and threw the ball to quarterback Jevan Snead for a lengthy gain.

The Rebels led fairly comfortably at 27-10 at halftime and the game settled into a bit more of a consistent rhythm from that point on.

"We kept them off balance," Nutt said. "It was a fun game to call."

And a fun start for Ole Miss players and fans, who experienced a game in which a Rebel team put up more than 31 points against a Division I-A opponent for the first time since a 31-28 win at South Carolina in 2004. It was the first 40-plus point game for Ole Miss since a 43-40 win, also over South Carolina, in Oxford in 2003.

Defensively Nutt said his team will continue to improve.

"We lost Cassius Vaughn (ankle, not known how severe) in the game, and that hurt us," he said. "We've got to get better on defense, and we will."

Ole Miss got on the scoreboard first on a 97-yard, seven-play drive that began after a Tigers' punt. The scoring play was a 64-yard touchdown pass from Jevan Snead to Shay Hodge which the sophomore fired across the middle of the field, Hodge gathered it in at midfield and raced the rest of the way for six points. Joshua Shene was good on the extra point, and the Rebs led 7-0 with 8:20 to go in the first quarter.

The visitors answered with a touchdown of their own. A 3-yard pass from backup quarterback Will Hudgens to Earnest Williams and the point after by Matt Reagan made it 7-7 with 3:07 to go in the opening quarter.

Before the end of the quarter the Rebels had another score. A Wild Rebel 32-yard run by McCluster and a Shene extra point made it 14-7, a five-play,60-yard drive with 56 seconds left.

The Rebels went up 21-7 on a 1-yard Enrique Davis run and Shene point after with 8:42 left in the second quarter. Snead to Jason Cook for 16 yards and Snead to McCluster for 28 yards were key plays in the drive which covered 80 total yards in 10 plays.

Ole Miss added two field goals by Shene (26 and 47 yards) and the Tigers had a field goal of their own by Reagan (39 yards) prior to halftime as the Rebs led by 17.

The Rebels had 292 yards in the first half to Memphis' 188. Snead was 6-of-12 for 137 yards and one touchdown.

Ole Miss all but put the game away early in the third quarter with another touchdown. After Memphis failed to move it on its opening possession of the half and punted, the Rebs went 54 yards in nine plays as Snead hit Hodge on a 15-yard pass play. Shene was good again and the Rebs led 34-10 with 8:13 to go in the period.

Tiger starting quarterback Arkelon Hall left the game with an injury, and Hudgens took over the rest of the way. Memphis scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 43-yard pass from Hudgens to Maurice Jones. Reagan's kick was true and the Tigers trailed 34-17.

A 10-yard run by Bolden capped a five-play 66-yard drive by the Rebels. The true freshman had already set his team up on the drive with a 36-yard run. Shene's point after made it 41-17 with 9:12 to go.

The Tigers added one late with 3:28 left as Hudgens scored from the 1-yard line, the end of a 13-play, 78-yard drive. Reagan was good and the final score had been posted.

Ole Miss had 19 first downs and Memphis 28 in the contest. The Rebels ended the night with 216 yards on the ground to Memphis' 188. Through the air Memphis had 265 yards and Ole Miss 222.

Ole Miss picked off a couple of errant Tiger passes (one each by Kendrick Lewis and Dustin Mouzon). The Rebs threw no picks.

Snead ended the game 10-of-22 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Hall was 15-of-27 with no touchdowns and one interception for Memphis, while Hudgens was 8-for-15 with two touchdowns and one interception.

McCluster was the leading Rebel receiver with four catches for 61 yards. Hodge had two receptions, both touchdowns. Cook also had two catches in the contest.

Bolden had eight carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. McCluster had six carries for 64 yards and a score, and Enrique Davis had six carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Cordera Eason had 10 carries for 32 yards. Derrick Davis had three carries for 17 yards and Devin Thomas had two carries for five yards.

Curtis Steele paced the Tigers on the ground with 15 carries and 83 yards.

Next up for the Rebels is 23-ranked Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons are 1-0 after a 41-13 winner Thursday night at Baylor.

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