Ole Miss went into its Saturday tilt against Samford with two things in mind.
First and most important was the victory. Second was to be sound doing it with an effort good enough to build from as conference play begins next week versus Vanderbilt. The former was easily accomplished. The latter could be best described as successful in spurts.
The Rebels (2-1) responded from an early gut-check and easily dispatched of Samford 34-10 before a Vaught-Hemingway Stadium announced crowd of just more than 52,000 in a tidy two hours and 51 minutes.
"It is always good to win," Houston Nutt said. "They are precious. You look across the country, there's always going to be somebody in a two-hour, 45-minute time frame that beats somebody they're not supposed to.
"Bottom line, after a rocky start, I thought our offense put together some impressive drives."
Five different Ole Miss players recorded points, and the Rebels generated 424 yards of total offense, more than double the Bullodgs' output (198).
The game turned into a routine rout eventually, but a few series in the first half provided some adversity for Ole Miss to respond to.
Ahead 3-0 after a 33-yard field goal by Josh Shene, Snead threw an ill-advised pass deep in Rebel territory that was intercepted by Samford. One play later, the Bulldogs took the lead, as Riley Hawkins secured the ball on a reverse and raced 13 yards into the end zone untouched.
Ole Miss put together an eight-play drive on the ensuing possession, and Shene closed the gap to one point with a 38-yard effort.
Three straight drives ended after five plays or less, before Ole Miss used a 23-yard catch by Mike Wallace, and a 16-yard Wallace run to put itself in position. Freshman Brandon Bolden plunged in from six yards out for the Rebels to reestablish a lead.
The Ole Miss defense forced another three-and-out, and Ole Miss closed the first half scoring with a nifty five-play drive beginning at its own nine-yard line and ending with a Cordera Eason 12-yard scoring run. The series included three straight completions of 31, 19 and 29 yards respectively.
After the half, the Rebels took the kickoff and produced a methodical nine-play, 63-yard drive to end all doubt regarding the outcome. Enrique Davis took it in on a four-yard scamper.
The final major positive came on Samford's first possession of the final half, as the Bulldogs drive 12 plays to the Ole Miss two. However, four plays later, Ole Miss regained the football when Samford quarterback Dustin Taliaferro was knocked out inside the one-yard line.
The Rebels' final points came when Marshay Green raced 77 yards for Ole Miss' first punt return for a touchdown since 2007 against LSU, also by Green.
After two games with a combined six touchdowns and only one pick, Snead failed to secure a score and had two passes intercepted. The sophomore did, however, complete 13-of-22 passes for 222 yards.
"As for myself, I am pretty disappointed in my play," Snead said. "I feel like I can play better, and I have stuff to work on for next week."
Billy Tapp directed the offense late and completed his lone attempt for six yards.
With the passing offense not punching it in, the Rebel run game netted 196 yards on 37 carries and scored four times. Eason led the charge with 13 carries for 68 yards, followed by Bolden (8 for 42 yards) and Enrique Davis (7 for 36).
"The first thing that stood out in my mind was that Cordera Eason really ran hard tonight," Nutt said. "I thought he ran behind his pads. He's probably a little ahead of everybody else right now, we have to depend on him."
Samford did hold the ball more than eight minutes longer than the Rebels.
Wallace set the pace receiving with 101 yards, while Lionel Breaux saw his first significant action with 40 yards on three catches and Dexter McCluster snagged two passes for 38 yards. McCluster left the sidelines with a rib injury but returned with pads back on in the second half and made a catch.
Defensively, Ole Miss held Samford to just 74 yards rushing, more than 200 yards below the Bulldogs' average entering the game. Chris Evans led Samford with 49 yards on 23 touches. Quarterbacks Dustin Taliaferro and Richie Fordham combined for 16-of-25 passes for 124 yards.
Cassius Vaughn led Ole Miss with seven tackles and a sack, just ahead of Peria Jerry with six tackles and Kendrick Lewis with five stops. The Rebels accumulated 12 tackles for loss, led by Jerry and Ted Laurent with two apiece. Emmanuel Stephens, Chris Bowers and Marcus Tillman each registered 1.5 TFLs.
Rob Park punted twice, once for 42 yards and another for 30.
Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt next Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to begin SEC play. The Commodores are 3-0 after defeating Rice, 38-21.
"I feel like we gained a lot of momentum going into next week," Jerry said. "Vanderbilt is a good team, and we are looking forward to playing them at our place this year."
The Rebel football program is one win shy of 600. Ole Miss boasts an all-time record of 599-461-35.
The Rebels are 31-6 in their last 37 nonconference games in Oxford.
Ole Miss' 103 points are the most in a three-game stretch since 2003. The Rebels are averaging 34.3 points per game this season.
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