Backup quarterback John Rhys Plumlee gave the Rebels hope late, but Ole Miss is still winless against the Pac-12 Conference and their opponent Saturday.
Missed opportunities on both sides of the football and a controversial call from PAC-12 officials at the end of the game proved costly for the Rebels as the No. 23 ranked California Golden Bears came away with a 28-20 victory at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels dropped to 2-2 on the season while Cal remains unbeaten at 4-0. This is Cal’s second victory over Ole Miss in three years.
“Tough loss. It’s really disappointing. I thought our kids fought their hearts out, but we just made way too many mistakes to win.” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “Credit California, they made the plays. There is just too much inconsistency, not getting off the field on third downs and not making the plays we needed to win the game. I’m proud of them. They’re fighting. We have some young kids that are battling to get better and we’ll continue to move forward.”
Down 28-13, Plumlee replaced an injured Matt Corral for the Rebels with four minutes left. His 47-yard run on 4th and 10 led to a Jerrion Ealy touchdown from 15 yards out to make it a one possession game. The Rebels proceeded to hold on 3rd and 1 near midfield to force a Cal punt.
Plumlee would again produce a clutch big play with a 41-yard throw to Demarcus Gregory that was downed at the Cal 10-yard line. Ole Miss had to work with no timeouts under 30 seconds left.
Plumlee completed a pass to Elijah Moore near the end zone, but was not ruled in. No whistle to review was blown by the officials. The offense hurried to the football and attempted a sneak play with Plumlee, but the Rebels were ruled short again as time expired.
“I thought, at the very least, that they’re supposed to review every play… but it’s fourth down, so you can’t wait. You have to get a play called. I thought at the very least it should’ve been reviewed, but we didn’t have a timeout and couldn’t spike it. So our only option was to do the quarterback sneak it and get the ball over,” Luke said.
Chase Garbers had a pair of career highs for the Golden Bears behind center. He completed 23-35 passes for 357 yards and threw four touchdowns, two of which came in the second half to pull away from Ole Miss early in the third quarter. Overall, the Golden Bears finished 6-12 on on third downs.
“It was a different situation each time. The quarterback made some good throws He scrambled around and made some plays, they got open some,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre said. “A few times, we played it right. A lot of time we didn’t play it as well as we’d like.”
Offensively, Matt Corral completed 22-41 passes for 266 yards. He also led the Rebels in rushing with 56 yards and a touchdown with 3:49 in the first quarter. His injury was related to his ribs according to Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.
Plumlee competed all seven of his pass attempts for 82 yards. Elijah Moore led all receivers with 11 catches for 102 yards. Ole Miss was held to three field goal attempts in the Cal red zone. Luke Logan made field goals from 29 and 33 yards in the first quarter, but missed from 29 yards out early in the fourth quarter already down two touchdowns. The Rebels were shut out in the third quarter and couldn’t find a rhythm until late.
“The guys completed. I think watching the film is going to made us miserable… the third quarter was really bad. We didn’t get a first down and missed a few things. I need to look at the film to see what happened,” Rodriguez said.
Ole Miss will travel to Tuscaloosa next week to face the No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.