MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Ole Miss football gave itself a chance late at the Liberty Bowl, but an outstanding fourth-quarter punt by Memphis' Andy Williams led to a safety and ultimately quelled a Rebel comeback attempt in the 15-10 defeat.
The Tigers mustered just those two points in the second half as the Landshark defense swarmed all day, holding the home team to just 364 total yards. Scottie Phillips notched the lone touchdown of the day for the Rebel offense early in the fourth quarter, but the comeback just wasn't meant to be as Ole Miss opened the season with a close loss.
The Rebels opened with the football and went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The Landshark defense turned in a three-and-out to start its day as well and was on its way to a stop on the Tigers' second possession, but a pair of costly penalties-a facemask and a roughing the passer call-both against junior outside linebacker Sam Williams, kept the drive alive and led to a Memphis touchdown. Quarterback Brady White drove a head on a QB sneak from one yard out for the game's first score.
A sack ended the Rebels' following drive prematurely, but the Rebel defense continued its strong day, notching another quick stop in response.
Ole Miss was in business offensively late in the first and early in the second quarter. Matt Corral found Elijah Moore for a 19-yard gain, and a targeting penalty against the Tigers sent the Rebels across midfield. Corral then escaped the pocket for an 11-yard gain to move the sticks at the end of the frame. The Rebel drive stalled out at the 33 and kicker Luke Logan was just wide to the right on a 50-yard field goal attempt, keeping Ole Miss off the board.
The Rebel defense held after the miss, giving up a pair of first downs before locking down in its own territory. Memphis attempted a 4th-and-8 conversion, but heavy pressure applied by Ryder Anderson forced an incompletion and gave the ball back to the offense. Corral promptly hit Jason Pellerin for a 15-yard gain, the senior tight end's first career catch. However, the Rebels couldn't muster any more offense on the possession.
Defensively, the Rebels responded with another big three-and-out. However, Corral was intercepted two plays into the ensuing drive, forcing the defense back out onto the field. The Rebel defense managed to force a punt, but after another Rebel three-and-out, a 21-yard punt return by John Williams gave the Tigers the field position they needed to score once more.
Ole Miss nearly held at the goal line, but on 3rd-and-goal from the one, Patrick Taylor punched in the 1-yard score. Riley Patterson's extra point attempt clattered off the right upright, keeping it a 13-0 game just before the half.
The Rebels nearly notched a quick turnover right out of the gates in the third quarter. Sam Williams knocked the ball loose from Taylor's grasp, but the ball bounced in favor of the Tigers. It appeared as though the fortune would stay with Memphis as Taylor broke free for a 47-yard touchdown run shortly thereafter, but the play was called back, as it was determined that his elbow touched down after just a three-yard gain. Soon after the overturned call, the Rebels came through with their first turnover of the season, a one-handed interception in traffic by defensive tackle Benito Jones.
Ole Miss broke through to put points on the board late in the third quarter. The Rebels used a heavy dose of Phillips, as well as a 36-yard connection between Corral and Moore to drive to the Memphis 18-yard line, where Logan hit a 35-yard field goal to make it 13-3.
The Rebel defense came up with another key stop thanks to a tremendous tackle by cornerback Jaylon Jones on 4th-and-1. Jones was stuck on an island on the outside, lined up solo against two receivers. Memphis checked to a bubble screen, but Jones was able to slip his blocker and blow up the play for a three-yard loss.
The ground game then led the Rebels to their first touchdown of the season. Corral and Phillips combined to run 38 yards on the drive, while freshman receiver Jonathan Mingo drew a critical pass interference call in his collegiate debut to set up the score. After the flag, Corral scampered for a 15-yard gain down to the Memphis 2-yard line. It took two attempts, but Phillips was able to drive his way in to make it a three-point game, 13-10.
On the following drive, Memphis was able to chip its way across midfield thanks to a 4th-and-1 conversion, but the Landshark defense continued to swarm. On 3rd-and-6 following that conversion, Quentin Bivens and Ryder Anderson combined on a sack to force a punt.
Andy Williams' ensuing punt rolled all the way down to the 2-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Corral was sacked in the end zone for a safety, making it 15-10, Memphis. From there, the Tigers were able to drain the clock and hold off the Rebel comeback attempt.
Ole Miss returns to action next Saturday. The Rebels will host Arkansas for their home opener at 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.