OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss offense is accustomed to quick starts and Saturday was no different.
The Rebels (3-2, 1-1 SEC) jumped out to a 27-7 lead and cruised a 48-28 victory over Memphis (3-1, 0-0 American) in front of 65,889 fans for homecoming at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday night.
Senior signal-caller Chad Kelly completed 30 of 44 passes for 361 yards and tailbacks Eugene Brazley and Akeem Judd each rushed for over 100 yards, as the Rebels posted 624 yards of total offense. That marked the first game since 2014 Ole Miss had two 100-yard rushers and was the most yards of total offense since the Rebels recorded 655 yards against New Mexico State last season.
Not to be outdone, the Landshark defense forced four Tiger turnovers and held the high-scoring Memphis offense more than 23 points below its season average. Defensive back Zedrick Woods led the way for the Ole Miss defense with eight total tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 TFLs.
Following a Memphis punt on the opening drive of the game, Kelly and the red-hot Rebel offense marched 90 yards in 13 plays and backup quarterback Jason Pellerin capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run that gave Ole Miss a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Kelly tied Bo Wallace’s school record with his 11th career 300-yard passing game.
The Rebel defense got into the act with 58 ticks remaining in the opening quarter when Woods picked off Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson and returned it 30 yards for a TD. Woods added his second career pick late in the fourth quarter to seal the game for Ole Miss.
Memphis responded back with a scoring drive of its own after the Tigers went 64 yards in four plays and running back Anthony Miller rushed into the end zone from seven yards out with 14:56 to go before half to cut the Ole Miss lead to 14-7. Gary Wunderlichconnected on a 32-yard field goal with 12:22 left in the second quarter that extended the Rebel lead to 17-7.
The Tigers were driving down the field once again, but defensive end Marquis Haynes hit Ferguson and forced a fumble that D.J. Jones recovered on the Ole Miss 43-yard line. Pellerin then capped the ensuing Rebel drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, that gave Ole Miss a 24-7 lead heading into the half.
The Rebels came out roaring to start the second half after Judd ripped off a 53-yard scamper and Wunderlich connected from 23 yards out to push the Ole Miss lead to 27-7 early in the third quarter. Judd finished the game with a career-high 108 yards on 15 carries, while Brazley led the team with a career-high 124 yards on 13 attempts and a pair of touchdowns.
Memphis added a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to pull within 27-21 with 3:36 left in the period, but Kelly responded for the Rebels with a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Evan Engram that gave Ole Miss a 34-21 lead heading to the fourth quarter. The touchdown reception was the 11th of Engram’s career and moved him into a tie for second among tight ends in school history with Barney Poole.
Brazley added a six-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that extended the Rebel lead back to 20 points, 41-21, with 14:53 left in the fourth. The Tigers added a touchdown with 8:41 left regulation, but Brazley added the exclamation point with a 32-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Tigers defense that put the game away.
Ole Miss is off next week and returns to Southeastern Conference action at Arkansas Oct. 15 for the first of back-to-back SEC road games.