By Kedrick Storey
OXFORD – There was no looking ahead to a showdown with nationally ranked Texas next week.
Saturday, after settling for a field goal on their first drive of the game, the Ole Miss Rebels scored touchdowns on their next four possessions, running away from the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks to win 31-13 before an announced crowd of 60,815 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss starting quarterback Bo Wallace and backup Barry Brunetti accounted for two scores each. Following a 10-yard rushing TD by Brunetti on the Rebels’ second drive of the game, Wallace hit tight end Evan Engram for a 64-yard TD pass. A drive later, Donte Moncrief found a soft spot in the SEMO zone, hauled in a Wallace pass and raced 67 yards for a 24-0 Rebel led with 37 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
Wallace went 8 of 15 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He did not return after the 10-minute mark of the second quarter.
Bruntti returned to guide the Rebels on their longest drive of the half and their final score of the game, an 11-play, 76-yard drive that lasted 4 minutes, 18 seconds. I’Tavious Mathers, who didn’t see any action at Vanderbilt, scored from 10 yards out for a 31-0 Rebel lead with 6:36 remaining until halftime. Mathers, a sophomore, had 56 yards on four carries with a long of 35.
Ole Miss (2-0) allowed 252 yards to SEMO with a majority of that coming in the second half. With the Rebels resting some starters, SEMO (0-2) abandoned its running game and found success through the air in the third quarter. Quarterback Scott Lathrop directed two scoring drives, the first an 11-play, 51-yard drive capped with a 16-yard pass TD pass to D.J. Foster. Later, the Redhawks took advantage of a Brunetti fumble, returning it 43 yards to the Ole Miss 27 yard-line. Three plays later, Lathrop threw a 16-yard TD pass to Spencer Davis.
Lathrop, who had just 50 yards passing in the first half, finished the night 16 of 14 for 159 yards. He was sacked twice.
The Rebels amassed 532 yards, with 272 coming on the ground. Brunetti lead all rushers with 111 net rushing yards on 18 carries. However, he fumbled three times, losing two of them. The Rebels had three turnovers in all. Third-string quarterback Robert Ratliff, who entered following Brunetti’s fumble, threw an interception.
The Ole Miss defense forced two turnovers and held SEMO to just 93 yards rushing on 41 carries. Cody Pruitt forced a first-quarter fumble recovered by Chief Brown. Pruitt got his second interception of the season just before halftime.
Linebacker Serderius Bryant, who replaced the injured Denzel Nkemdiche, had 15 tackles, eight solo.