No. 16 Ole Miss defeats Memphis 48-28 on Homecoming night
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Memphis’ offense, which was led by junior quarterback Riley Ferguson. But he definitely knew the defense had to put some pressure on the Tigers’ signal-caller.
And pressure him, they did.
The Rebels forced Ferguson to make three interceptions, and they sacked him once as No. 16 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) defeated the Tigers, 48-28, Saturday night inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. With the win over Memphis, Ole Miss improved to 72-15-2 all-time in Homecoming games, having won 18 of its last 20.
(Complete game stats, here.)
Tigers rally in the third quarter, but Rebels answer
The Tigers trailed for the entire game but never gave up, forcing the Rebels to stay alert. Memphis closed its deficit to 27-21 in the third quarter following redshirt junior Doroland Dorceus’ seven-yard rushing touchdown.
But Ole Miss quickly responded with a seven-play, 65-yard TD drive to increase its lead back to 13. Senior quarterback Chad Kelly found senior tight end Evan Engram on a slant route for 12 yards.
Running back Eugene Brazley played an integral part of the drive with a 17-yard catch from Kelly, followed by an 11-yard run.
At the beginning of the final quarter, Brazley rushed for another TD, which ultimately gave the Rebels the breathing room they needed. Brazley finished the game with 124 yards on 13 carries. Senior running back Akeem Judd added 108 yards on 15 carries.
Chad Kelly on Ole Miss ground game
Rebels take early lead
Ole Miss went up 7-0 in the early minutes of the first quarter after redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin ran in from the one-yard line for the score.
On the Tigers’ second drive of the first quarter, Ferguson threw the football into traffic and was picked off by Zedrick Woods, who took it 31-yards to the end zone for the pick six. The Rebels jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, an exact repeat of last season’s showdown inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Woods would pick off Ferguson again late in the final quarter.
In short, Ole Miss wasn’t about to allow another meltdown to happen, especially on Homecoming night.
“I definitely think it was a big game because of last year,” Kelly said. “I want to be able to go to Memphis and act like we won the game. So now I can feel like I am welcomed into Memphis now.”
On 3rd and 27 from the Rebels’ 31-yard line, Marquis Haynes sacked Ferguson for a loss of 12 and forced a fumble, which was recovered by D.J. Jones. Ole Miss’ offense took care of the rest as Pellerin rolled out to his right for the three-yard rushing TD.
Kelly completed a pass to seven different receivers for 361 yards and one interception on 30-of-44 passing.
Memphis (3-1) got within 14-7 in the second quarter off Anthony Miller’s seven-yard rushing TD but miscues on offense, along with some costly penalties (seven for 52 yards), derailed the Tigers’ chances of their second straight victory over the Rebels.
Landsharks pressure Ferguson
Ole Miss had to make sure it pressured Ferguson, who was in his first true road test of the season. The junior college transfer had his way with opposing defenses in Memphis’ first three games. But the Rebels made Ferguson’s time on the field a difficult one from the very beginning.
Ole Miss tallied seven pass breakups and five quarterback hurries in the game. Haynes pressured Ferguson on his second interception, which was picked off by Jones. The Rebels did exactly what they needed to do, and that was hit Ferguson on almost every snap. It was simply a repeat of what Ole Miss did to Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jacob Eason last weekend.
Ferguson was 30-for-46 for 343 yards. Wide receiver Anthony Miller had 132 receiving yards on 10 receptions.
“He was a little slippery at times,” Rebels’ defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said about Ferguson. “When you take a guy like Marquis (Haynes) missing a couple of times in there, something is up. I knew he was a good quarterback. Obviously, he got recruited to Tennessee.
“Then the other guy at Tennessee started playing, so he transferred. He’s a good football player.”
Ole Miss: Linebacker DeMarquis Gates was suspended from the game for a violation of team standards. Freeze hasn’t given a timetable for Gates’ return, saying: “Kids have to put the team first. I love our kids and want to do things that helps them long-term. If it means I sit one, I’ve done it this year and I’ll continue to do it.”
Freeze said he knows kids make mistakes, but “…to be a great program, you have to have accountability to each other in some areas…”
The Rebels are thin at linebacker and Freeze and staff will look at options to replace Gates. “I’ve got a few things in my mind,” Freeze said.
Freshman defensive back Deontay Anderson was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting on Ferguson. Due to NCAA rules, Anderson will have to sit out the first half against Arkansas in two weeks.
Memphis: Patrick Taylor Jr. came into Saturday’s game averaging 8.8 yards per carry but was held to four yards per carry. He rushed for 20 yards on five carries.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)