It wasn't necessarily a yawner, and the Rebels didn't actually sleep walk through it. But Ole Miss' 38-14 win against Northern Arizona had all the atmosphere of a glorified spring game.
Still the game was played as an announced 38,184 watched at least some of the contest. The Rebels won, which was obviously their goal. Their overall record now stands at 6-3 with three games left.
But because the NAU game was the second FCS foe (former Division I-AA) they'd played this season, they still have to win one more to get to a bowl game. Their next opportunity is next Saturday morning against Tennessee, a CBS game at 11 a.m. in Oxford.
"We're excited about the time and we're excited about them coming here," said Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. "We can't wait to start preparing for them."
Preparing for the Lumberjacks wasn't quite as easy. In the heart of the SEC season, stepping out for an FCS foe in November breaks the routine.
"We had to jump out of the SEC and play this one," Nutt said. "Now it's all hands on deck as we get back into SEC play the rest of the way."
The game Saturday night started just like the Rebels would have hoped. From his own 22-yard line, former Rebel quarterback Michael Herrick, the NAU starter, was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage for the Lumberjacks.
Marcus Tillman stepped in front of a swing pass in the right flat and returned it to the 15.
Five plays later Jevan Snead connected with favorite target Shay Hodge for six yards and a touchdown. Joshua Shene connected for a 7-0 UM lead with just more than two minutes gone off the clock.
NAU got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, an 11-play drive that covered 80 yards, capped by a 5-yard run from Alex Henderson.
The Rebels had an answer, however, as Brandon Bolden bounced off defenders and broke four tackles, outracing the rest of the Lumberjack defense into the end zone - 45 yards for the touchdown. Shene was good and the Rebels were up 14-7 with 10:36 to go before halftime. The drive was four plays and 60 yards.
But the visitors also had another answer, and Herrick led the Lumberjacks downfield to tie it. It was Henderson again, this time on a 3-yard carry into the end zone, the end of an 81-yard, six-play drive.
The Rebs came right back and moved out in front 21-14. Rodney Scott got most of the carries, but Snead got the points with a 3-yard keeper around left end. Shene connected and 5:46 remained before the break with UM up 21-14.
After NAU couldn't move it, Ole Miss got it back via punt and moved 44 yards in four plays with Snead again keeping it, this time from the 1-yard line. Shene's conversion put Ole Miss up 28-14 with 2:46 remaining in the half.
After yet another stalled NAU drive and punt, Ole Miss got the last points of the half as time expired, a 38-yard field goal by Shene for a 31-14 edge at intermission.
The Rebels added a touchdown in the third, a 65-yard pass from Snead to Hodge. Shene was good again for a 38-14 UM advantage. And the scoring for the night was through.
Ole Miss outgained Northern Arizona 425 to 354. The Rebels had 19 first downs to 15 for NAU.
Ole Miss gained 161 yards rushing, including 85 for Bolden on 10 carries.
Snead was 16-of-29 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored two TDs on the ground and failed to throw an interception for the first time in three games.
Hodge caught seven passes for a career high 169 yards, his second straight 100-yard receiving game.
"He's our go-to guy," Nutt said. "We depend on him in a lot of areas. He's had a big year."
Herrick was 20-of-31 for 233 yards with the lone interception.
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