Quarterback Bo Wallace found his rhythm in the passing game after a couple of misfires, and the Rebels scored 31 first-half points on Saturday.
The defense adjusted against the option and held SEMO to 2.3 yards per carry on 41 attempts.
Sophomore running back I’Tavius Mathers had a solid season debut with 56 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Running the football is the signature contribution for backup quarterback Barry Brunetti, and he did that very well with a game-high 111 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts.
However, Brunetti was just 3-for-12 passing, was sacked twice and fumbled twice and was unable to lead a second-half scoring drive.
Pass defense was exploited by an FCS opponent that rarely throws the football as the Rebels gave up 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Keys To Victory
(Updating the game keys from last week’s GameDay preview)
1. Make it a business
The Rebels did this in the first half, controlling both sides of the ball for a 31-0 halftime lead. The second half showed that Ole Miss does not have the necessary depth behind the starters.
2. Improve in the secondary
Didn’t happen. Cornerback play was spotty among starters Senquez Golson, Mike Hilton – who was just moved to the position last week – and reserves. Senior Charles Sawyer was held out and is expected to be back this week against Texas.
Play from the safeties was solid, as Cody Prewitt had six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
3. Be physical on the line
Mixed results here. SEMO had some early success with the option, but Ole Miss settled in and held the Redhawks to fewer than 100 yards rushing.
Freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche had five tackles and two tackles for loss.
The offensive line helped the Rebels rush for 272 yards but still gave up two sacks and couldn’t take over the game to let the backs control things with Brunetti at quarterback.
LBSerderius Bryant: Starting in place of the injured Denzel Nkemdiche, the junior linebacker had 15 tackles, a tackle for loss and a QBpressure.
The second half gave a frightening glimpse of an Ole Miss offense if something were to happen to Bo Wallace. Run defense was strong for the second straight week, but if there’s no improvement at corner, teams will quickly learn they won’t have to run to beat the Rebels.