By Kedrick Storey
OXFORD – Ole Miss had allowed 240 rushing yards or more in all three losses leading up to Saturday’s game with Missouri.
In a game where the talk focused on how the Rebels’ defensive backs would contend with the Tigers’ passing attack that featured four receivers 6-foot-2 or better, that trend continued.
The Rebels ranked in the top half nationally and in the SEC in rushing defense (150.4), but gave up 260 yards on the ground to Missouri, falling to 0-4 when allowing 200-plus rushing yards.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the defense performed better against the pass – 252 yards, no touchdowns and one interception – than the run, but he wasn’t shocked by Missouri’s success.
“They are a good football team and they force you into ‘What are you going to take away the most?’” Freeze said. “Go look at the stats. I think they are No. 2 in the conference in rushing, so it’s not a surprise that they ran the football tonight.
“We tried to mix it up as much as we could and holding them to 24 points is not a bad outing. We just had to score some tonight and we didn’t.”
Missouri entered the game ranked third in the SEC in rushing at 218.2 yards per game. It was that running attack, led by Henry Josey, that made the biggest difference.
Josey’s 20-yard gain on the game’s third play was an in indication of the success the Tigers would find on the ground and in particular up the middle. The junior running back finished with a game-high 95 yards on 15 attempts for a 6.8 yards per carry average. He added two rushing scores.
Marcus Murphy added 69 yards and a score, as Missouri totaled 5 yards per attempt.