The No. 25 Ole Miss Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) outdueled the Texas Longhorns (1-2) Saturday night on the road in Austin by a score of 44-23. After getting handled 66-31 in front of the home crowd last year, Hugh Freeze's club put on a show in the second half, and the burnt orange faithful began to exit en mass well before the clock even struck zero.
Don't look now, but the Rebels are 3-0 for the first time since 1989.
While Ole Miss had its highs and lows in the first half, Rebel running back and return specialist Jeff Scott helped get his team on the right page in the second half. Already having scored an amazing 75-yard game-winner at Vanderbilt in the season opener, Scott racked up 243 all-purpose yards and two scores against the 'Horns.
As great a game as Scott put together, quarterback Bo Wallace was a solid field commander in Texas. On the night, the junior gunslinger went 17-of-25 for 177 yards and two scores through the air (along with 57 rushing yards and another score).
In compiling 449 yards of offense, four Rebels receivers pulled in three or more passes. True freshmen Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram continued their impressive play, combining for nine receptions, 89 yards and a touchdown.
While star wide receiver Donte Moncrief accounted for 43 yards and a score, wide receiver Jordan Holder was equally as impressive in catching three balls for 39 yards (including a timely pass to setup a field goal before half).
Most notably on the other side of the ball, linebacker Serderius Bryant continued his stellar play in 2013. For the second consecutive week, Bryant led the team in tackles with 11 tackles.
Ole Miss Opens Up Hot
The Rebels offense came out on fire, taking its opening possession 75 yards in two minutes and 38 seconds for a Scott touchdown. His opening-drive score was just the beginning of what would be a career night.
After forcing the Texas offense to a three-and-out on its first series, Wallace led the Ole Miss offense to a 57-yard scoring drive after finding Moncrief for the second score of the night.
Not even halfway through the first quarter, Freeze's squad held a 14-0 lead over the same team that embarrassed them last season in Oxford. Early on, things weren't looking good for new Longhorns defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
Then Texas Clicked (for a while)
Down 14-0 in no time and likely wondering if they were in for another BYU game, Texas wide receiver Mike Davis hauled in a touchdown pass from QB Case McCoy to pull within seven of Ole Miss late in the first quarter.
As for the Longhorns defense, Robinson's unit finally started to click through the rest of the half. The high-powered Rebels offense that scored on both of its first drives suddenly found itself in neutral as the Rebels struggled to post only 40 net yards of offense on the next four drives.
After the Rebels moved the ball 44 yards to the 'Horns' 31-yard line, the Texas defense batted down a fourth-down try to halt the Ole Miss resurgence. Quickly thereafter, wide receiver Jaxon Shipley shook off the Rebels' Chief Brown for a 24-yard gain to move the ball inside Ole Miss territory.
From there, Longhorns running back Jonathan Gray would take an eight-yard carry for the go-ahead 17-14 score.
Ole Miss was reeling, suddenly troubled by the Texas defense, and really needed some offensive production on the next series to both give the red and blue a spark and slow the Longhorns' momentum. However, a ball would slip out of Wallace's hand as he took it back to pass and Texas recovered.
In great field position after the Wallace snafu, the Longhorns only managed to add three to the scoreboard after two false starts. Nonetheless, with the Anthony Fera field goal, Texas had outscored the Rebs 23-0 since Ole Miss first opened the contest with a 14-0 lead.
Ritter Field Goal Huge Turning Point
With less than a minute before the break, Rebel kicker Andrew Ritter hit a career-long 52-yard field goal to bring the Rebels to within six at the half (23-17). It was a much-needed score at a much-needed time, before Freeze headed to talk with his kids at the half.
More than anything, the lengthy Ritter field goal ended the half on a positive note for the Rebs. It would prove to be the catalyst to an onslaught that would come from Ole Miss the rest of the game.
Whatever Freeze told his team in the locker room at halftime worked, as the Rebels came back to life on both sides of the ball to start the third quarter. The second half would prove to be a stark contrast to the way the Rebels played for the majority of the first half (minus the quick start).
Having forced Texas to a punt on its opening drive, Wallace engineered an 80-yard drive, capped off with a gutsy 15-yard rushing score to put the Rebels up 24-23. Next, tight end Engram hauled in a Wallace strike to push the Ole Miss lead to 31-23. From there, it would get even better.
After the 'Horns offense was held to another three-and-out, all-purpose speedster Jeff Scott returned a Texas punt 73 yards to extend the lead to 37-23. The Rebels were scoring at will, and nothing could stop them.
To cap things off, sophomore running back Jaylen Walton would cross the goal line for what would ultimately be the final score of the game. With the Walton touchdown, Ole Miss had rallied to outscore the Longhorns 30-0 before all was said and done in Austin.
Where They Go from Here
At 3-0 (1-0 SEC), Freeze and the crew should slide up slightly in the rankings when the next set of polls are released. After the solid road win, Ole Miss will get to stay home next weekend and enjoy a well-deserved open week (when it'll again slide up in the polls).
The Rebels next suit up on September 28 against the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It'll be an interesting game with a lot of eyes tuning in to see just how good this group really is this fall.
From there, the Rebs travel to Auburn before coming home to Texas A&M and LSU the following two weeks. Ole Miss has survived its first three and is very close to setting itself up for what could be a special season in only Freeze's second year at the helm.
For now, though, Rebel Nation can sit back and enjoy what these young kids are doing in Oxford.