OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) –
Two first-half touchdown passes of 50-plus yards by sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace, along with two crucial defensive stands, led Ole Miss (2-0) to a 28-10 win over UTEP (0-2) in front of 53,133 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels’ 2-0 start is its first since 2009.
“The one thing that never was questioned was how hard they played for this university, and everyone should recognize that, so I’m proud of the guys,” first-year Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze said. “We should have had a lot more points, but at the same time, these are building blocks for these young kids. I’m just thrilled at the joy that they’re experiencing in the locker room right now.”
Wallace was 15-22 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns. The Pulaski, Tenn., native also rushed for 53 yards and a score. Wallace has racked up 438 yards passing and 135 yards rushing in his first two games guiding the Rebels. He has also thrown for five touchdowns and rushed for two.
Wallace’s top target was sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncreif, who had three receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan had a team-high five catches for 44 yards.
After holding the Miners on their opening possession, Ole Miss took just four plays to drive 73 yards for a touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a picture-perfect 55-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who got behind the UTEP cornerback and hauled in the pass that traveled 45 yards in the air.
UTEP opened the second quarter with first down at the seven-yard line, but failed to get into the endzone on the first three plays. Facing fourth down with the ball on the one-yard line, the Miners rolled the dice and went for it. The Rebels defense was up to the challenge, however, and tackled Nick Lamaison on the quarterback keeper two yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The Rebels used the momentum gained from the fourth-down stop to drive 97 yards in 3:25 to gain a two-touchdown lead. Again, the Rebels found pay dirt off a big play, as Wallace hit freshman running back Jaylen Walton down the right side for a 51-yard touchdown.
The Rebels defense bent for a second-straight possession, but again didn’t break as sophomore cornerback Cody Prewitt picked off UTEP quarterback Carson Meger in the Ole Miss endzone and returned it 16 yards to maintain the 14-0 lead for the Rebels.
Ole Miss used a methodical, 15-play, 84-yard drive capped off with a four-yard touchdown run by Wallace to the right corner of the endzone with 28.3 seconds left to take a 21-0 lead into the half.
After 10 unanswered points by the Miners in the third quarter narrowed the Rebels lead to 21-10, Ole Miss got back on the board with 11:18 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Wallace capped off the eight-play drive by hitting H.R. Greer for a three-yard touchdown pass with Greer diving to extend the ball over the pylon in the right corner.
Ole Miss’ 77 points in a pair of wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP are its most point scored in the opening two contests since 2009 when the Rebels scored 98 points in their first two games.
The Rebels’ 10 points allowed were their fewest since allowing seven against Oklahoma State in the 2009 Cotton Bowl.