By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss dug the trench for Southeast Missouri State in the first half but couldn’t bury the FCS Redhawks on Saturday night.
The Rebels rolled up 532 yards and won 31-13 before 60,815 fans at sea-of-red Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
But the Redhawks outscored a mix of Ole Miss reserves and some starters 13-0 in the second half.
With quarterback Bo Wallace and running back Jeff Scott pulled with 31-0 lead, backup quarterback Barry Brunetti was unable to lead the offense to complete the runaway win.
In addition, an option-based team exploited the Ole Miss secondary in the final two quarters. SEMO quarterback Scott Lathrop completed 16-of-24 attempts for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off once in the second quarter.
The Rebels (2-0) started Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton, the starting Huskie a week ago, at cornerback and played reserves extensively.
“I don’t think we have the answer there,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We need to get Charles Sawyer healthy to play cornerback. Hopefully he’ll be back next week.”
The Rebels could use improvement this week as they travel to face No. 15 Texas.
“We know we have the talent to play with them,” Wallace said. “We just have to prepare and get ready.”
Wallace in the second half
Freeze said he considered playing Wallace in the second half. He also considered playing a freshman quarterback, most likely Devante Kincade, as Brunetti struggled.
“You have no idea how close I was,” Freeze said. “I was real close.”
As for now Kincade, who was impressive running and throwing in August camp, has not played and remains a redshirt candidate.
Wallace didn’t get off to a great start but was 8-for-15 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns as Ole Miss pulled away early.
He threw scoring strikes to freshman tight end Evan Engram for 64 yards – most of that as Engram outran the SEMO secondary – and to Donte Moncrief for 67 yards as Moncrief did the same.
Wallace did not run as much as he did at Vanderbilt, carrying just twice for 15 yards.
Brunetti scored the Rebels’ first touchdown on a 4-yard run to cap a 47-yard drive. That came with 3 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first quarter and gave Ole Miss a 10-0 lead.
Backup tailback I’Tavius Mathers, who did not play at Vanderbilt as he recovered from an ankle sprain, scored on a 10-yard run with 6:36 left in the half for a 31-0 lead.
Freeze said he thought about resting Mathers – who he says sparks the team in power sets – one more week but Mathers talked him into playing.
“He had some good runs, but you could tell when he went to put that left foot in the ground it wasn’t fluid. He kind of talked me into that one, and I’m glad he did. I don’t think he hurt himself,” Freeze said. “I just don’t think he’s 100 percent yet.”
Mathers carried four times for 56 yards.
Brunetti was the team’s leading rusher with 111 yards on 18 carries but also fumbled twice and was only 3-for-12 passing.
The Rebels lost to FCS member Jacksonville State here to open the 2010 season 49-48 in two overtimes.
Southeast Missouri (0-2) lost 45-7 at Southeastern Louisiana last week but gained confidence in the second half.
“I think we calmed down in the second half we realized we could play with these guys,” Lathrop said. “We just needed to stop stalling on drives and execute and move the ball. We did that in the second half.”