OXFORD, Miss. – (Courtesy of Ole Miss SID) A record-breaking rushing performance led by freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee powered the Ole Miss football team past New Mexico State, 41-3, in the Rebels’ Military Appreciation Game inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC) rushed for 447 yards on the ground, the most since 1962, while Plumlee ran for two scores. They were the sixth and seventh rushing scores of the season for Plumlee, breaking Joe Gunn’s 1998 freshman rushing touchdown record.
The Rebels scored five times and ran for the fifth-most rushing yards in school history at 447 yards. Snoop Conner (109 yards, 2 TDs) and Jerrion Ealy (71 yards, 1 TD) also had huge days on the ground.
The Landshark Defense made its presence known throughout the game, holding New Mexico State (0-9) to only 193 total yards and three points, both the fewest for the Rebels since the 2015 season against Texas A&M.
Plumlee entered the afternoon 13 yards shy of the Rebel freshman rushing record, and he got that out of the way quickly, darting for 14 yards on the first play of the day to pass Mico McSwain’s previous mark of 612 yards set in 2005. Ole Miss went on to take an early 3-0 lead behind a 36-yard Luke Logan field goal.
The Rebs came right back with a defensive stop. New Mexico State followed its passing offense into Rebel territory, where the defense held to force the punt.
The Rebels continued to roll offensively on the following drive as a 21-yard connection between Plumlee and Octavious Cooley set up a brilliant 30-yard touchdown run by Conner. The freshman running back saw his first hole close up on the run but bounced it to the outside, following a block by Plumlee to the edge to make it a 10-0 Rebel lead.
A sack by Benito Jones halted the following New Mexico State series and forced a punt. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Plumlee threaded the needle to Elijah Moore, who broke away for a 28-yard gain. Plumlee also hit Sanders and Ealy for solid gains, but just outside of the New Mexico State red zone, Conner was stood up by a convoy of Aggie defenders and fumbled, recovered by NMSU’s Devin Richardson as the first quarter came to a close.
The Rebel defense held strong in response, allowing just one first down before forcing another punt. It took just two plays for Ole Miss to make up for the fumble. Plumlee exploded for a 75-yard run down to the five and Ealy did the rest, diving across the goal line for a touchdown to make it a 17-0 lead.
New Mexico State swung back with a 16-play, 65-yard drive. Willie Hibbler came through with a sack early in the drive, but an illegal hands to the face flag against Jones bailed the visitors out on 3rd-and-17. The Aggies drove just into the red zone before a Josiah Coatney sack helped to force a field goal attempt. Dylan Brown hit from 34 yards out to make it 17-3.
Ole Miss methodically stretched that lead before the break. Dannis Jackson moved the chains on a 9-yard rush early in the drive, then another freshman receiver helped to keep the drive going as Jadon Jackson drew a pass interference on a deep ball. The Rebels then used the ground game to chip their way down the field and drain the clock, culminating in a 2-yard rushing score by Plumlee with just 0:40 left on the clock, making the score 24-3 at the half.
Ole Miss opened defensively with back-to-back stops, including a three-and-out on New Mexico State’s second drive of the second half. Jacquez Jones sniffed out and blew up a screen pass on third down to force the punt.
The Rebels followed that with a quick scoring drive. Plumlee found Jadon Jackson for a 15-yard gain along the sideline. Conner then reeled off rushes of seven and 21 yards on consecutive plays before Plumlee broke free for an 18-yard score, his second of the game.
The very first play of the ensuing Aggie drive saw Quentin Bivens get to the quarterback for the fourth Rebel sack of the day.
Ole Miss got the ball back and added to its lead with a season-long 95-yard drive, extending the advantage to 38-3. Plumlee set the Rebels up with a 38-yard rush to begin the drive. Corral then entered the game and found Jason Pellerin a few plays later for a 25-yard pickup. Conner received the ensuing handoff and scored his second rushing touchdown of the contest from one yard out.
The Rebels ate up 7:02 of the game clock in the fourth with a 14-play drive capped off by a Logan 28-yard field goal to complete the scoring. A myriad of Rebels then debuted on the final drive.
Ole Miss will be back in Southeastern Conference action next weekend at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels will host undefeated No. 2 LSU at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.