NEW ORLEANS — Ole Miss surpassed its win total from last season and bounced back from the previous week’s 66-31 loss to Texas with a 39-0 win against Tulane in New Orleans this past Saturday.
“Any time you shut somebody out at the Division I level — everyone has got some playmakers — you’ve had a good afternoon,” head coach Hugh Freeze said.
Ole Miss outgained Tulane 450-159, including 304-14 on the ground. However, it was far from a perfect performance with two failed two-point conversions on the first two scoring drives and three fumbles lost.
“You look back on it and the thing that’s in my mind is all the turnovers, and putting the ball on the ground,” co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said. “And that’s just inexcusable.
“We’ve got to tighten that up. That’s two weeks in a row that we’re turning the ball over, and you can’t win in our league turning the ball over.”
The Rebels dominated early, outgaining the Green Wave 183-14 on the way to a 26-0 first-quarter lead.
Tulane had its largest gain of the game on its first play of the game, a 32-yard pass from quarterback Devin Powell to wide receiver Ryan Grant.
Three plays later Tulane was forced to punt and snapped the ball over the punter’s head for a 31-yard loss. Ole Miss took over at Tulane’s 23-yard line, and sophomore Jeff Scott scored on a 13-yard touchdown.
The rout was on. Ole Miss scored on its next three drives — all before the first quarter was over.
Junior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan went 14 yards on a reverse, senior running back Randall Mackey ran up the middle for 28 yards and sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace connected with Donte Moncrief for a 23-yard pass down the sideline.
In the second quarter, however, Ole Miss managed only 60 yards of total offense and fumbled twice, as the teams went into halftime with the same score of 26-0.
“I was very irritated at halftime,” Freeze said. “I thought we lost our edge a little bit. We worked hard all morning long and all night last night gearing them up for what we knew would be a different atmosphere.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the way they played the first quarter, but we could not be more disappointed in the way we didn’t pay attention to details in the second quarter.”
Wallace, who sprained his right shoulder early in the game, fumbled for the second time on the first drive of the second half, and junior Barry Brunetti came off the bench for Ole Miss.
Brunetti, who quarterbacked three of the next four drives, outplayed Wallace statistically, completing 5-of-7 passes for 45 yards and rushing for a game-high 67 yards on 13 carries. Wallace was 7-of-16 for 101 yards and a touchdown and ran for 36 yards on eight carries.
In his first action of the second half, Brunetti led a 15-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a Scott 4-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.
“I’ve been staying focused,” Brunetti said. “I’ve been treating this year much better than last year. I’ve been staying very positive on the sidelines, helping my teammates out and whenever my number is called try to do the best I can. Because I know this year my name can be called at any time, at any moment.”
Senior Bryson Rose added field goals of 40 and a career-long 47 yards to extend the lead to 39-0.
On its final drive of the game, after a pass interference penalty, Tulane had the ball first-and-goal at the Ole Miss 3-yard line before redshirt freshman safety Chief Brown intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve the shutout, the Rebels’ third interception of the game.
It was Ole Miss’ first shutout since a 45-0 win against Mississippi State in 2008.
“Going into the week, Coach (Dave) Wommack said one goal for the week is getting a shutout,” redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. “And that’s what every defensive player wanted to do. It was big time for us. We need this confidence going into the week we’re going into next week.”
Ole Miss passed its first road test, but there’s a big difference between Tulane, with the nation’s longest losing streak at 13 games, and Alabama, the nation’s top-ranked team and defending national champion.
“It certainly wasn’t a hostile environment like we’ll face next Saturday night,” Freeze said of Saturday’s game at No. 1 Alabama (8:15 p.m., ESPN).
“There will be some adjusting to that with these young kids and even the ones that haven’t been in that atmosphere. We’ll have some things we have to work on this week to handle that.”
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