OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss football team scored 14 points on its opening six plays and cruised to a 59-14 victory over the visiting Idaho Vandals on a beautiful Saturday evening in which the Rebels celebrated Homecoming at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Coming off back-to-back games decided within the final two seconds, Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) scored 17 unanswered points in the game’s opening quarter and led 24-7 at halftime. The Rebels’ 59 points scored Saturday night was its highest point total since scoring 59 against ULM on Nov. 15, 2008. Ole Miss has now won 15 of its past 17 homecoming games.
“The second half was more of what I would hope for,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “I’m a realist and I don’t think it is a realistic expectation for them to be emotionally charged after the stretch of games we’ve been through. I expect them to focus, catch and protect the football, and play penalty free, and we didn’t live up to it in the first half. I feel better with the way they played in the second half though.”
The big play was friendly to the Rebels’ offense, as six of Ole Miss’ seven offensive touchdowns Saturday night went for 30 yards or longer, including two touchdown strikes over 60 yards. Ole Miss finished the game with a season-high 572 total yards, including a season-high 292 yards rushing.
Sophomore running back I’Tavius Mathers finished with a career-high 138 yards rushing on a career-high 14 carries and one touchdown, while fellow sophomore running back Jaylen Walton had 86 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan had the first multi-touchdown performance of his career, highlighted by a career-long 65-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Bo Wallace finished the game going 15-22 for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ole Miss defense did its part as well, scoring a defensive touchdown in the third quarter, creating a pair of turnovers on downs and recording a season-high 10 tackles for loss. The Rebels’ 14 points allowed marks the second lowest points allowed total of the season.
Junior safety Cody Prewitt led Ole Miss with a team-high six tackles, while senior cornerback Dehendret Collins had his first career fumble recovery and touchdown.
After the Ole Miss defense held the Vandals to -4 yards on their opening drive, the Rebels’ offense went 60 yards in just under two minutes, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown pass by Wallace to Logan. Wallace went 4-for-4 for 55 yards on the opening drive.
Ole Miss tacked onto its point total on the first play of its second drive, as Walton went 40 yards up the middle and into the end zone. Walton’s 40-yard score was the longest rush of his career.
After a missed field goal attempt by the Vandals and a 17-7 advantage on the scoreboard, Ole Miss methodically drove 80 yards on 13 plays, including nine rushes, and stretched its lead to 24-7 thanks to a 1-yard rush up the middle by Walton.
Mathers capped off the Rebels’ scoring in the third quarter with a career-long 64-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter to give Ole Miss a 45-14 lead.
Ole Miss closed out its scoring in the game with a pair of touchdown passes by senior quarterback Barry Brunetti to freshman Mark Dodson and junior Collins Moore in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss will have its final open week of the season next week. The Rebels will take the field again Nov. 9 against Arkansas at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“We need (the bye week) desperately,” Freeze said. “We played without seven starters again tonight, and if you count C.J. (Johnson) and Aaron (Morris) it’s even more than that. We’ve played without some key people, and this bye comes at a really good time for us to get them healthy for the remaining games.”