Winning Beginning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Ole Miss let Memphis hang around much of the day. But in the fourth quarter the Rebels pulled away for a 45-14 season-opening victory.

It was the defense that kept things in check for the Rebels throughout the first half. Offensively Ole Miss picked it up later, but the final score was not actually indicative of the game itself. It was a bit tighter throughout, until late.

One key play for Ole Miss came with the Rebels leading 10-7 and halftime approaching. Memphis was deep in its own territory when Fon Ingram intercepted an Arkelon Hall pass intended for Marcus Rucker and took it 38 yards for a touchdown. Joshua Shene was good on the extra point, and Ole Miss led 17-7. There were 41 seconds to go in the first half.

Another key moment in the contest was in the fourth quarter. There was no scoring in the third period, but the Tigers had something going when the fourth quarter started. On fourth down and 1 at the Rebel 43, Curtis Steele took the handoff from Hall and was stopped short by Jerrell Powe and a host of Rebel defenders.

Perhaps a stretch to call it the play of the game, but Ole Miss took over and moved the distance in five plays with Dexter McCluster taking a direct handoff at the 1, running right and pushing over the goal. Shene was good and Ole Miss led 24-7 with 12:43 to go in the game.

Certainly those two plays made a huge difference for Ole Miss.

At the start of the contest, Ole Miss' defense proved it had come to play.

After holding the Tigers to minus 11 yards on their first series, the Rebels got the ball at their own 44 and moved quickly downfield. Three running plays netted 42 yards, and Ole Miss was poised at the Tigers 14. But the Memphis defense came through and on fourth and six from the 10, the Rebs settled for a 27-yard field goal by Joshua Shene to take an early 3-0 lead.

After the kickoff into the end zone by Andrew Ritter, the Tigers gained seven yards on first down. But the significant note from that play was a rolled ankle by Rebel DE Greg Hardy. He was taken into the dressing room but returned before the end of the first quarter and would play again in that quarter and throughout the contest.

On the very next play, Ole Miss intercepted a Hall pass that was tipped as Johnny Brown hauled it in at the Tigers 40 and returned it to the 3-yard line. But the ball came loose and was recovered by Memphis' Carlos Singleton. Ole Miss held in three plays and punted. Marshay Green returned the punt from the 40 to the Tigers 26.

In four plays Brandon Bolden took it in from the 1. Shene was good, and the Rebs led 10-0 with 6:20 to go in the first period.

Memphis moved the ball well on its next possession but unforced errors killed the drive. First and 10 at the Rebel 29 turned into first and 20 at the 39 after two illegal procedure penalties. Heavy pressure from Rebel defenders got to Tiger quarterback Hall on a couple of plays. On fourth and 13 at the 32, Matt Reagan attempted a 49-yard field goal that hit the right uprights and bounced back into the field of play.

In the second quarter, Memphis scored quickly. On the second play of the period, Jevan Snead was intercepted by Deante' Lamar on a pass intended for Dexter McCluster. He returned it from midfield to the 25. In three plays Curtis Steele took it on a direct snap from the 2-yard line for the score. Reagan converted and it was 10-7.

The remainder of the quarter was uneventful until the final minute. That's when Ingram intercepted the pass and scored.

Offensively the statistics were basically even at intermission. Each team had nine first downs. Ole Miss had 144 total yards to the Tigers' 123.

Snead was 5-for-12 with two interceptions and only 74 yards passing in the first half. McCluster caught four of the five for 41 yards. Bolden led the ground attack with 34 yards on five carries.

For the Tigers, Hall was 5-for-15 with two interceptions for 37 yards. Calhoun caught three of those for 35 yards. Reagan's punting aided the Tigers as he had a 45.7 yard average through two quarters with two dropped inside the 20, one of those at the 2.

After the Rebels took the 24-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, Memphis came right back for more points to make a game of it again. An eight-play drive was capped by a 5-yard run by Steele with 9:09 left in the contest. Reagan made it 24-14, and the Tigers were back in the hunt.

But Ole Miss did what it needed to do at that point – run some clock and get more points. On the eighth play of this drive at the Memphis 18, Snead alluded a rush, moved out of the pocket, and found a wide-open Markeith Summers inside the 5-yard line. Summers waltzed into the end zone untouched. Shene tacked on the point after, and the Rebels were comfortably out in front 31-14 with 6:14 to go.

On the Tigers' next possession, Greg Hardy recovered a fumble by Hall inside the Tigers 20-yard line. On the first play for the Rebs, Snead hit McCluster for 17 yards and a touchdown. Shene was good and that made it 38-17.

Backup QB Will Hudgens then came into the game for the Tigers, but on fourth and 10 at his own 48, an incomplete pass gave the ball back to Ole Miss. Six plays later, Enrique Davis took a handoff from Rebs' backup QB Nathan Stanley and raced into the end zone from 29 yards out. Shene was good again and the final score had been posted with only six ticks left on the clock.

Ole Miss had 21 first downs to Memphis' 19. The Rebels totaled 349 yards on offense to the Tigers' 284.

Ole Miss had terrific balance, gaining 175 yards in the air and 174 on the ground. Memphis rushed for 150 and passed for another 135.

Snead finished the game 12-for-22 with two TDs and two picks, totaling 175 yards on the day.

McCluster led the Rebel receivers with 65 yards on six carries and one touchdown. On the ground Bolden had 71 yards on nine carries and one TD.

For Memphis, Hall was 15-of-30 for 110 yards and two interceptions.

Calhoun caught five passes for 53 yards, and Steele had 19 carries for 90 yards and two TDs rushing.

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