By David Brandt/The Associated Press
OXFORD — Ole Miss is 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 2007. An inept offense is the main reason why.
The Rebels gained just 183 total yards and scored one offensive touchdown in a 27-13 loss to Georgia on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“Obviously 183 yards of offense isn’t enough to win in this conference or any conference,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said. “We’ve got to improve on that.”
The loss is another blow to Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s job security. The Rebels have a 5-11 record dating back to last season and the backlash from fans has grown louder by the week. Athletic director Pete Boone said he wanted to see more “fire” from the football team after a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Sept. 17.
The Rebels were slightly more competitive. But the results were the same.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs won their eighth straight in the series dating back to 1997. Freshman Isaiah Crowell rushed for 147 yards on 30 carries, helping Georgia (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) grind out the road victory.
Malcolm Mitchell caught three passes for 93 yards to help the Bulldogs gain 475 total yards.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 17-0 lead by midway through the second quarter and took a 24-13 lead into halftime. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh missed three field goals in the second half, but the Ole Miss offense could never capitalize.
Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2) has lost 10 of its past 11 SEC games.
Georgia dominated early, with the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Crowell gashing the Ole Miss defense on the ground for several big gains. Murray’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Orson Charles gave the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead with 6:01 in the second quarter.
“The first half was great offensively,” Murray said. “We didn’t make mistakes and we were efficient … You could tell today that we’ve made some big strides since week one.”
But the Rebels responded with an unexpected flurry that briefly made things interesting. After a reverse handoff, Randall Mackey hit a wide-open Donte Moncrief for a 38-yard touchdown to pull within 17-7. Then Ole Miss immediately recovered an onside kick and the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 58,042 finally had something to cheer about.
The momentum was short lived — Mackey threw an interception three plays later.
“I thought our defense came out in the second half and played a dominant game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The defense finished this game extremely well. One play could have made it ugly and nasty for us, but our defense just didn’t (allow) that.”
Ole Miss couldn’t do much on offense unless it was in the form of a trick play. Both of the Rebels’ touchdowns came after a reverse. Randall Mackey threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief after taking a handoff from running back Jeff Scott. Nick Brassell scored on an 81-yard punt return after Scott caught the punt, ran across the field and handed off to Brassell.
Anything conventional was almost immediately stuffed.
The Rebels rotated Zack Stoudt and Mackey throughout the game, but neither was impressive. Stoudt completed just 7 of 23 passes for 71 yards and an interception. Mackey completed 3 of 7 passes for 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“The thing that hurts us is the three and outs,” Nutt said. “We were so quick to get back to the sidelines and put our defense out on the field. There were some very achievable first downs. We are just missing some balls. You have to be able to get those.”
Richt’s job status has also been tenuous after a 1-2 start. But the Bulldogs’ picked up a much-needed road win and some momentum heading into a winnable stretch of games against Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.