Homecoming Hurrah: Missouri tops Ole Miss, 38-27

Missouri’s defense forced three fumbles, and its offense had 560 total yards in the win.
Missouri's defense makes a goal-line stop at the end of the first half to hold the Tigers' 12-7 lead over the Ole Miss Rebels heading into halftime. Missouri went on to beat Ole Miss 38-27 in its 108th homecoming game. Photo by Madeline Carter

With 14 seconds left in the first half, Ole Miss lined up for a fourth down at Missouri’s 1 yard line.

Nick Bolton had just been credited with the third-down stop, also at the 1. The Rebels were set to try their hand again at a Snoop Conner rushing touchdown, which would put them ahead by two points heading into halftime.

In front of a sold out homecoming crowd and missing its star senior linebacker Cale Garrett, Missouri’s defense held the Rebels from the end zone. The goal-line stand guaranteed the Tigers would enter the locker room on top, as they have every home game this season. Tre Williams and Cameron Wilkins — Garrett’s replacement — were credited with the stop.

“See ball, get ball, that’s all I could see,” Wilkins said. “My teammates were in the right gaps. Everybody [was] very physical on the fourth and one. Just have to make a play, and the team came up good with it.”

Missouri (5-1, 2-0) topped Ole Miss (3-4, 2-2) 38-27 in its 108th homecoming game capping a five-game, undefeated home stand. Quarterback Kelly Bryant completed 23 pass attempts for 329 yards, with his top receiver being Johnathon Johnson, who caught eight passes for 110 yards. Bryant played with a brace on his left knee after the sprain he suffered last week against Troy.

“All the things that we continue to try to build this program on, I saw it tonight,” coach Barry Odom said. “The way that Kelly battled through the injury he had, huge performance.”

The Tigers’ biggest offensive play came on a 54-yard touchdown run by third string back Dawson Downing with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. The redshirt junior’s first career touchdown punctuated a seven play drive for the Tigers and pushed them to a three touchdown lead over the Rebels.

“[Dawson’s] earned playing time — not just mop up duty — he’s earned time in the game,” Odom said. “Every week, he continues to get a little bit better. What a great run tonight by him.”

As a whole, Missouri’s offense put up 562 yards against Ole Miss, 298 more than the Rebels allowed in their last game, a 31-6 win over Vanderbilt.

The defense allowed 440 yards from the Rebels. Freshmen John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral both threw for over 100 yards, and Plumlee led the team in rushing with 143 yards on 23 carries.

Missouri’s first defensive stand without Garrett went smoothly, but Johnson muffed the punt and AJ Finley got the ball back for the Rebels at Missouri’s 29. Ole Miss was the first on board six plays later, when Plumlee found senior Scottie Phillips for a 21-yard touchdown.

The Tigers responded with a steady offensive drive, highlighted by a 23-yard connection between Bryant and Johnson and an 18-yard one with Johnathan Nance. They couldn’t find the end zone, but senior Tucker McCann cleared a field goal to get them on the board anyway.

A holding penalty saved Missouri from going down two touchdowns two drives later when Plumlee ran 57 yards on a reverse fake for what would have been a touchdown. Instead, the Rebels’ drive ended with a fumble recovery by sophomore defensive lineman Jatorian Hansford after Plumlee botched a handoff.

Missouri ended the first quarter with a 29-yard connection between Bryant and Johnson to move itself into Ole Miss’ territory.

“[Johnson] was special tonight,” Bryant said. “That’s just who he is. He made a bunch of great grabs on field. Good to see JJ, whenever he got the ball he turned to make it more of a long play.”

It was the first time the Tigers ended the first quarter trailing all season. In its first four games of the season, Missouri outscored its opponents 58-0 in the opening quarter. Last week, Troy was the first on the board, but Missouri quickly responded with 21 points to take the lead.

Tyler Badie gave the Tigers their first touchdown just over a minute into the second quarter, only his third of the season. McCann’s kick bounced off the right-side upright, leaving Missouri with a pickup of only six with the score. He added three with a field goal on the next drive.

Badie rushed for only 24 yards on 5 carries in the game, but finished with 69 receiving yards.

“I can do a lot of things,” Badie said. “It’s just our offense. I got to stick to the gameplan. It’s not all about me. It’s a team effort.”

After a touchdown-less second quarter, Larry Rountree III rushed for 41-yards and a touchdown on third to punctuate a five-play drive for the Tigers coming out of the locker room. Once again though, McCann botched the extra point attempt.

McCann was 2-4 on PATs, but 4-4 on field goals. He added his third to cap Missouri’s second offensive drive of the second half, which included a 49-yard connection between Bryant and Badie, and his fourth just over halfway through the fourth quarter.

Missouri allowed one more Ole Miss touchdown late in the third quarter, a 28-yard pass from Plumlee to Elijah Moore. The Tigers responded with a touchdown of their own the following drive on a 1-yard rush by Rountree.

The Rebels attempted to stage a fourth-quarter comeback with two touchdowns by Plumlee and an interception by Sam Williams, but the Tigers’ strong third quarter and McCann’s fourth field goal kept the game out of reach.

“We knew it was gonna go down to the fourth quarter,” Odom said. “We’ll be in a fourth-quarter game next week would be my guess.”

Missouri will hit the road again for the first time since Week 1, traveling to Nashville next week to take on Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3) for its third SEC matchup of the season.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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