By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss enters Egg Bowl week with a loss, its four-game win streak snapped by No. 8 Missouri amid the Tigers’ execution and the Rebels’ missed opportunities.
No. 24 Ole Miss crossed the Missouri 10-yard line three times but came away with only three points as a Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 61,168 watched Missouri win 24-10 Saturday night and edge closer to an SEC Eastern Division title in only its second year in the conference.
Ole Miss, hoping to increase its bowl standing, will have one more chance Thursday night in Starkville against rival Mississippi State.
Down 17-3 at halftime, the Rebels traded touchdowns with Missouri, and that wasn’t nearly enough.
The lone touchdown for Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4 SEC) came on a 45-yard run by I’Tavius Mathers with 13 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third quarter to make the score 17-10.
The Tigers (10-1, 6-1) stretched the lead back to 14 points on Henry Josey’s 10-yard run later in the third.
Missouri will clinch the East and berth in the SEC championship game if it defeats Texas A&M at home this week.
“It’s impossible to beat a top 10 team when you get in the red zone and don’t score points. If you don’t score in the red zone against that team you’re not going to win,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
The Rebels’ comeback bid in the second half was hindered by its starting quarterback at less than full strength. Bo Wallace spent most of the third quarter on the bench with flu-like symptoms.
He began to feel ill on Friday, Freeze said.
“Today he looked a little glassy-eyed early,” Freeze said. “I wasn’t sure exactly how effective he was going to be, but he wanted to go compete.”
Wallace was more effective in the first half when he completed 20 of 28 attempts. He finished the game 26 for 42 for 244 yards and an interception.
He had completed 73 percent of his pass attempts over the Rebels’ four-game win streak.
After Ole Miss reached the Tigers’ 7 only to turn the ball over on downs in the middle of the fourth quarter, Missouri’s run game – which totaled 260 of its 485 yards – let the Tigers run the final 8:08 off the clock.
“They did a nice job with their gap schemes. I think we overran some plays is what I think. We had the quarterback several times, and he got away from us. Missed tackles and overrunning,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
Missouri quarterbacks James Franklin, the senior starter, and Maty Mauk, the redshirt freshman who led the Tigers to a 3-1 record in Franklin’s absence, both led touchdown drives in the first half.
Ole Miss twice penetrated the Tigers’ 10 in the first half but netted only three points.
The postage stamp for Ole Miss frustration in the first half was a 19-play, 90-yard drive that failed to score.
The Rebels moved from their 9 to the Missouri 1 where a third down rush from Jaylen Walton was short.
A Pierce Burton false start on fourth down forced Ole Miss into a short field goal try, but pressure came from the middle, and the kick was blocked.
Andrew Ritter was good on a 30-yard attempt later in the second quarter, but it was no enough to off-set two short touchdown runs by the Tigers.
Josey capped a 72-yard march with the opening kick with a 4-yard run off the left side.
Missouri covered 39 yards on its first two plays as Cameron Whigham missed a sack of Franklin who escaped to pass for 19 yards, and Josey ran for 20 yards on the next play.
In the second quarter, Missouri’s Marcus Murphy scored on a 3-yard run, capping a 68-yard drive that included Mauk’s 60-yard pass to Bud Sasser, who had three steps on Ole Miss cornerback Mike Hilton on a crossing pattern.