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Ole Miss drops season opener to Florida State

2724 days ago
Ole Miss Athletics
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- No. 11 Ole Miss jumped out to a 28-6 over No. 4 Florida State, but the Seminoles took advantage of four Rebel turnovers and scored 30 unanswered points to down the Rebels 45-34 in the Camping World Kickoff Monday night.

Senior quarterback Chad Kelly was 21-of-39 through the air for 313 yards, including four touchdowns and three interceptions. Classmate Evan Engram caught a career-high nine passes for 121 yards and one touchdown in the setback. Freshmen D.K. Metcalf and Van Jefferson caught touchdown passes from Kelly, the first of their respective careers. Akeem Judd led Ole Miss (0-1) in rushing, accounting for 44 yards.

The fast-paced Ole Miss offense scored five touchdowns throughout the night with its longest scoring drive lasting 2:19. FSU (1-0) controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 42:39 compared to just 17:21 for the Rebels.

Florida State was led by redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, who threw for 419 yards and also ran for 59. Dalvin Cook accounted for 192 yards (101 receiving, 91 rushing), and Jesus Wilson hauled in nine passes for 125 yards. Freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo made a school-record six field goals to account for 18 points.

Ole Miss marched straight down the field to begin the game, leaning on the strong arm of Kelly. The senior quarterback went 4-for-5 for 59 yards on the drive, including a 36-yard hook-up with freshman A.J. Brown on third down. Kelly found Engram twice for 20 yards on the drive before hitting Damore'ea Stringfellow on a three-yard slant for the touchdown. Going 75 yards in just 1:51, the Rebels claimed the early advantage.

The Seminoles put together a 13-play drive to cut into the Ole Miss lead as the first quarter drew to a close. Francois threw for 84 yards to get FSU into the red zone and inside the 10. However, the Landshark defense held its ground and forced the Seminoles to settle for a 25-yard field goal. Aguayo split the uprights to make it a 7-3 game at the end of the first quarter. The Rebels answered with a scoring drive of their own, finding the end zone to increase their lead to double digits, 14-3. The combination of Kelly-to-Engram continued to be a popular play as the classmates used a trio of passes to move 39 yards. Kelly also used his legs, scrambling three times for 20 yards. The signal caller threw his second three-yard touchdown pass of the game on a fade to D.K. Metcalf. The first career reception was a memorable one for the freshman as he went over the FSU defensive back and tipped the ball to himself in the back of the end zone.

After forcing a three-and-out, Ole Miss scored its second touchdown in as many drives. Kelly found Stringfellow and Taz Zettergren on passes of 21 and 37 yards, respectively. Two plays later, Engram split open down the seam; Kelly's rifled a tight spiral to the tight end for the 21-yard touchdown. With 9:42 left in the first half, Ole Miss held a 21-3 lead.

FSU tried to answer with a touchdown, but a Cook fumbled out of bounds gave the Landsharks a second chance that they would seize. Another stop inside the 10 limited the Seminoles to a 21-yard field goal. Ole Miss countered another Florida State score with a touchdown as Akeem Judd rumbled 11 yards past the pylon, making it a 22-point game. Right before the half, the Seminoles found the end zone for the first time of the night, and Ole Miss took a 28-13 lead into the halftime locker room.

Kelly accounted for 267 of the Rebels' 312 yards in the first half, throwing for 215 (14-of-23, 3 TDs) and rushing for 52. Engram caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown with Brown hauling in two receptions for 48 yards. On defense, Ole Miss limited FSU to 14 yards during the opening half.

After Florida State kicked a field goal on its first drive of the second half, two Rebel turnovers led to a pair of FSU touchdowns. The 17 points gave the Seminoles their first lead of the game 29-28 with 9:17 to go in the third quarter.

Another FSU score put the Rebels in an eight-point deficit heading into the final 15 minutes of play. Another FSU field goal pushed the margin to 11 points, but a 49-second drive put Ole Miss within single digits. Kelly threw a bomb to Engram for 42 yards to get the Rebels into Seminole territory, and a 20-yard pass to Van Jefferson resulted in a touchdown. Quickly, the Red and Blue had some life left with 12:09 left in the contest.

However, FSU continued to move the ball down the field. Aguayo added two more field goals as the Rebels were unable to complete the comeback, dropping the season opener 45-34.

The Rebels return home Saturday afternoon (Sept. 10) for their first game in the renovated and expanded Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss will host Wofford at 3 p.m. CT on SEC Network.