Ealy’s record-breaking day helps push Rebels past SLU, 40-29
OXFORD, Miss. – Whichever Oxford motel Southeastern Louisiana stayed in Friday evening might want to hold the reservation for another night – the Lions simply never seemed to want to go away against the Rebels Saturday.
Ole Miss took a 40-29 win over Southeastern at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in a game that can best be described as excitingly lackluster. (Click here for box score.)
At times, the Rebs looked as if they could beat the world. At others, it looked like Ole Miss might beat itself.
There were turnovers, missed receivers, lapses on defense and missed kicks. But there was also an electricity in the Rebs’ performance many have been waiting to see.
True freshman Jerrion Ealy tallied 273 all-purpose yards to put himself in contention for the SEC Freshman of the Week. The reigning player with that honor, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, completed 21-of-40 for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But the Rebels also missed a field goal and an extra point, fumbled four times (losing two), and surrendered three sacks.
“It’s good to get a win,” head coach Matt Luke said.
“Give a lot of credit to them (SLU). We knew going into in that they had some skill players. They tested us and hit us on some big plays, but nothing in life is easy. This was a good lesson to everybody in that locker room that every day we come out to play and it’s not going to be easy.“
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
Still, a win is a win and now Ole Miss is 2-1 with a date with Cal next week before entering the league schedule.
Yet, it was a hard-fought win.
Leading 37-29 in the waning minutes of the game, Southeastern was driving for a potential score. But Donta Evans came up with a huge defensive play when he picked off a Chason Virgil pass at the Ole Miss 15 to quell the threat.
The Rebels were able to run time off the clock and Logan hit a 32-yarder with less than a minute left to seal the win.
The Rebels opened the game in methodical fashion, taking the opening kickoff and driving 72 yards in 12 plays for a 9-yard touchdown pass from Corral to Elijah Moore. The drive was quite democratic as three Rebs ran the ball and another five caught passes.
On the ensuing drive, Myles Hartsfield picked off a SELA pass, but three plays later, Ole Miss returned the ball to the Lions when Scottie Phillips coughed up the ball his own 41.
But the Landsharks did not break. Using the short field, the Lions’ Bryce Broussard kicked a 30-yard field goal to slice the lead in half, 6-3.
The three-point deficit lasted exactly one play.
Ealy took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards for the first kick return touchdown of his career. Logan’s kick increased the Ole Miss lead to 13-3.
“I hit full speed on that first kickoff return a little too early, but on the second one I let it develop and got past the first line and was able to cut left—and then it’s just not getting caught.“
Jerrion Ealy on his huge return game against SLU
Southeastern would not go away, however. The Lions opened the second quarter finishing off a five-play, 57-yard drive culminating in a 14-yard scoring run by Marcus Cooper. Broussard’s kick pulled SELA to within three, 13-10.
Any anxiety felt by the Rebels’ fans was again eased by Ealy. After he returned the kickoff 18 yards, the Walnut Grove native ran 52 yards on first down to put the Rebels into Southeastern territory. On the next play, he ran it the rest of the way for on a 30-yard scoring run and suddenly Ole Miss led 20-10.
The Rebels soon got the ball back, as sophomore linebacker Jacquez Jones forced a fumble after a devastating tackle on the ensuing kick return. Isaiah Woullard grabbed the loose ball for the turnover.
However, Ole Miss couldn’t turn that into immediate points, as Luke Logan’s 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.SELA remained undaunted. The Lions mounted a 10-play, 74-yard drive and when Devonte Williams crossed the goal line and Broussard hit the conversion, the Ole Miss lead was down to 20-17.
The Rebs were able to increase their lead again just before the half. Ole Miss took possession on an interception by Jon Haynes at its own 48 and was able to burn most of the second-quarter clock on the way to a 5-yard scoring strike from Corral to Jason Pellerin to provide the 27-17 halftime score.
SELA outscored Ole Miss 12-7 in the third quarter, but Ole Miss was able to generate enough offense and the Landsharks didn’t surrender any fourth-period points to earn the win.
Scottie Phillips led the Rebs with 103 yards rushing, while Ealy added 95.
Ten receivers caught passes for Ole Miss with Elijah Moore leading the way with seven grabs for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Ealy’s 273 all-purpose yards (172 kickoff return, 95 rushing, 6 receiving) eclipse the old Ole Miss all-purpose rookie record of 268 yards by Dexter McCluster. Pretty lofty company, there, for Ealy.
“I’m really proud of Jerrion,” Luke said. “The difference in the game was a big run and the kickoff return for a touchdown. There are some freshmen out there making mistakes, but there’s some freshmen out there making big plays too.”
(Video credit: Derrell Hart, The Rebel Walk)