NEW ORLEANS – Jeremiah Masoli displayed pinpoint precision on throws deep down field, scrambled effectively when needed and left little doubt about his credentials to become Mississippi’s No. 1 quarterback.
Masoli accounted for 308 yards and two touchdowns, and there was no late-game collapse this time for Mississippi in a 27-13 victory over Tulane on Saturday night.
“All the receivers have great chemistry with me and things are getting better each practice,” Masoli said. “It was way easier this week. … I’ve been feeling more comfortable and I’m happy where I’m at.”
Brandon Bolden rushed for a 16-yard score and Masoli’s 70-yard touchdown strike to Markeith Summers gave Ole Miss (1-1) a 24-3 lead at halftime.
Mississippi blew a 21-point halftime lead against Jacksonville State a week earlier, but withstood a spirited second half by Tulane (1-1).
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt praised Masoli for “excellent leadership,” and said he was, for the most part, encouraged by his team’s performance.
“This is one to build on,” Nutt said. “It’s much easier to teach things when we win.”
Orleans Darkwa’s 1-yard touchdown run helped the Green Wave pull to 24-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Masoli then responded with a 61-yard completion to Summers on a rollout to his right, setting up a field goal for the final margin.
Masoli completed 14 of 20 passes for 281 yards and was intercepted once on a tipped pass. He also rushed for 27 yards and a score. Summers finished with five catches for 165 yards.
In Mississippi’s opener, Nathan Stanley started and split time with Masoli. This week, Masoli got the starting nod over Stanley, who hurt his shoulder last week and was in for only one fruitless drive in the third quarter.
“I wanted to put Nathan in the heat of things,” Nutt said. “I just wanted to get him in there. He’s got to be ready.”
Linebacker Jonathan Cornell had three sacks for Mississippi, the last of them jarring the ball loose from Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin on a fourth-down play in the final minutes.
That allowed Ole Miss to kneel on the ball and run out the clock, an ending far different from the frantic overtime finish a week earlier, when Jacksonville State scored on fourth-and-15, and followed that up with a 2-point conversion to complete a shocking double-overtime upset.
There were some similarities among the two games, however.
Mississippi took command right away by getting in the end zone on its first two possessions.
The first drive started at the Tulane 42 after Jesse Grandy returned the opening kickoff 51 yards. Ole Miss was stopped on third-and-goal from the 1, but Masoli stretched over the goal line on a fourth-down sneak.
Bolden’s scoring run capped an 11-play, 78-yard drive on the Rebels’ second possession.
Tulane threatened to pull within a touchdown in the second quarter but settled for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
The Rebels responded with Bryson Rose’s 41-yard field goal, followed by Summers’ long score shortly before halftime.
Ole Miss had another sluggish second half, including a third quarter in which the Rebels had no net yards of offense while Tulane racked up 156 yards.
“It seems to be a dead moment when we come out every third quarter,” Mississippi defensive end Kentrell Lockett said. “We talked about it on the sideline during the game.”
It didn’t cost the Rebels this time, in part because Tulane squandered a drive inside the Ole Miss 10 by fumbling the ball away on an option pitch from Griffin to Payten Jason early in the third quarter.
“If we don’t give up those two long passes, which led to (10) points, and we don’t fumble on the goal line, it’s a real interesting game,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said.
Griffin finished 21 of 30 for 203 yards, hitting D.J. Banks six times for 85 yards. Darkwa’s touchdown was the fourth for the freshman in two games.
Tulane’s Cairo Santos hit field goals of 19 and 38 yards.
Brett Martel/The Associated Press