Explosive run plays and bend-don’t-break defense defined the 92nd homecoming game for Ole Miss Rebels.
The Rebels ran for 413 yards en route to defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores 31-6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday. With the win, the Rebels get back to .500 with a 3-3 overall record and move to 2-1 in SEC play.
“I’m really proud of our defense pitching a shutout in the second half,” head coach Matt Luke said. “We swarmed to the football really well. Offensively, to rush for all those yards the way we did and in the second half, I was really pleased with that. We just want to keep building on this. I think there’s a lot of things we can get better at, but we just want to move forward together. We’re at the halfway point of the season, just trying to find out other ways to get better moving forward,”
The Rebels scored 10 points on their first two possessions, but couldn’t get much going for the remainder of the first half, failing to convert on fourth down twice and to get completions on third down. True freshmen Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner provided the spark for Ole Miss to begin the second half.
It took five plays to score 14 points as Ealy ran for a 78-yard touchdown on the first Rebel drive of the third quarter, followed by Snoop Conner’s first career touchdown. The 84-yard score tied the seventh longest touchdown run in school history.
“We broke out a lot of big runs. It’s really neat to see that freshman group take off. A really good team win,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said.
In his second career start, John Rhys Plumlee went 10-18 passing for 99 yards through the air and rushed 22 times for 165 yards and the game’s first touchdown. Plumlee accounted for 113 of Ole Miss’ 120 yards on the ground in the first quarter.
“I think I got better, but I think I personally can be a whole lot better by capitalizing on the little things and doing them right,” Plumlee said.
Ealy, Conner, and Scottie Phillips combined for 20 carries, 250 yards and a touchdown each. Despite all the numbers, Rodrigues said there was more that was left on the field.
“There were times where they can force you to throw and we didn’t execute that. I could do a lot better job with that too, getting them ready for all that stuff,” Rodriguez said.
Defensively, Ole Miss held the Commodores to a pair of field goals from Ryley Guay, both coming in the first half. The attempts were good from 22 and 43 yards out. Vanderbilt finished 2-17 on third downs, a drastic change from a week ago for the Rebel defense.
“We’ve been working on it. We’ve been pressuring more and our coverage better,” defensive coordinato Mike MacIntyre said. “We were able to disguise things more and are more crisp at it. Our kids are better at understanding all of that.”
For the third time this season, Lakia Henry led the Rebels with 15 tackles. Jacquez Jones, Jaylon Jones and Austrian Robinson combined for 21 tackles. Vanderbilt, as a team, was held to 62 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
The Rebels will travel to Columbia next Saturday to face another SEC East opponent in the Missouri Tigers. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.