Young stars shine for Rebels in 31-6 win over Vanderbilt
OXFORD, Miss. – A trio of Ole Miss true freshmen played their own version of “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better,” Saturday night as they each turned in a long touchdown run. Each run was longer than the previous one.
The final result was a 31-6 Rebels’ win over Vanderbilt at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as the University celebrated homecoming.
Ole Miss stands at 3-3, 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Vanderbilt falls to 1-4, 0-3 in the SEC.
Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, a true freshman from Hattiesburg, led off the fireworks in the first quarter with a 33-yard scoring run to put Ole Miss up 10-0. In the third quarter, the freshmen duo at tailback showed their explosiveness.
“It’s just great to see the freshmen running in the third quarter,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said.
“You know, breaking off those two big runs, that really was the difference in the game. It kind of got static in the second quarter. The first quarter was pretty good moving the ball. Second quarter we got a little static, but it was to see us come out get a stop right off the bat.”
Head coach Matt Luke
Jerrion Ealy electrified the crowd with a 78-yard scoring run, and about three minutes later Snoop Conner did his teammate six yards better by scoring from 84 yards.
“Once I see a hole is open, I tell myself I have to go 0-to-100 really quick, and thankfully I had someone down field blocking for me, and after that I just had to bob and weave,” Ealy said about his long run.
“I’m having lots of fun. The most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”
But after his run, Ealy said he challenged Conner to make a play.
“I just said ‘Hey, it’s your time now baby,’” Ealy told his fellow freshman. “I said ‘you have to get in the zone, you have to get your first one, so this is your play right here; let’s go get it.'”
In all, the trio combined for seven runs of at least 13 yards. Senior Scottie Phillips added a 24-yard touchdown run and another rush of 17 yards.
Ole Miss ran for 413 total yards in the game. Plumlee led the way with 165, Ealy had 97, Connor racked up 91 and Phillips added another 62.
The Rebels took the opening kickoff and drove to a Luke Logan 41-yard field goal. The drive was highlighted by a 54-yard scamper up the middle by Plumlee to set Ole Miss up with great field position. But back-to-back sacks forced the Rebs to settle for the field goal and a 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing Ole Miss drive, Plumlee showed off his speed again. He faked a dive handoff and kept the ball around the left end and raced untouched 33 yards for a touchdown. Logan’s kick put the Rebels ahead 10-0 less than five minutes into the game.
During the Rebs first two drives, Plumlee accounted for 83 yards on the ground on just six attempts.
Vandy took the ensuing possession and held onto the ball for over six minutes, but the Commodores could get nothing out of it and punted to essentially chew up the rest of the first quarter clock.
In the first period, Plumlee gained 113 yards, averaging 14.1 yards per carry. Three of his runs were over 30 yards.
Early in the second quarter, Vanderbilt got on the scoreboard. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced the Commodores in a first-and-goal situation from the Ole Miss 24. A third-down run by quarterback Riley Neal enabled Ryley Guay to connect on a 22-yard field goal to cut the Rebels’ lead to 10-3.
Vandy closed the uneventful second quarter with Guay hitting another field goal, this one from 43 yards, to cut the lead to 10-6 at intermission.
Ole Miss would not settle for a field goal on its first second-half drive. The abbreviated march – just two plays – ended when Ealy took the ball up the middle and didn’t stop until 78 yards later when he crossed the goal line. Logan’s kick added to the Rebels’ lead, putting them up 17-6 early in the third quarter.
Conner got into the act on the next drive. On the third play of the drive, he showed his speed by sprinting though the Vandy defense for 84 yards and a touchdown that pushed the lead to 24-6 early in the third quarter.
That score held until the end of the period.
Phillips closed out the rushing attack and provided the final score with his 24-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
Plumlee added another 99 yards passing to give Ole Miss 512 total yards.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.