MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP/WCBI) — Patrick Taylor rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown and defensive end Bryce Huff recorded a fourth quarter safety to seal a 15-10 Memphis victory over Mississippi on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Huff’s tackle of Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral with 6:42 left created the final margin. The safety was set up by a punt from Memphis’ Adam Williams to the Rebels’ 2 on the previous play. Huff was virtually untouched before reaching Corral in the back of the end zone.
“I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to make something happen,’” Huff said of the play. “I didn’t necessarily think he was going to do a pass play down there.”
Kenneth Gainwell, who has taken over all-purpose duties from Tony Pollard, now with the Dallas Cowboys, had 77 yards rushing for the Tigers and six catches for another 41 yards.
Corral finished the game 9 of 19 for 93 yards passing. Scottie Phillips managed 62 yards on 19 carries as the Rebels were held to 173 yards of total offense.
“We struggled to block them,” Rebel coach Matt Luke said.
The Memphis defense, much maligned after giving up 32 points and 428 yards per game last season, stymied the Ole Miss offense. Mississippi managed only 42 first half yards of offense, including minus-1 rushing against the Memphis defense under new coordinator Adam Fuller.
“Hats off to our defensive staff. Coach Fuller and the defensive staff was incredible, absolutely incredible,” Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. “Kept them off balance all game long.”
The Memphis offense collected 364 yards in the game, much less than the explosiveness of last year. But those yards failed to translate into scores, often because of penalties that stopped drives. And, in one momentum-switching moment, Memphis appeared to score on a 47-yard run by Taylor early in the third. An Ole Miss challenge showed Taylor’s elbow was down, bringing the ball back. An interception by White would result in a possession without points.
All of that, though, was enough to overcome an Ole Miss offense that never really got on track.
“We just gotta settle him down. He’s got a lot of talent,” Luke said of Corral, a redshirt freshman. “Early in the first half he was pressing.”
Ole Miss: The new offense under coordinator Rich Rodriguez failed to muster any real momentum. In addition to recording only 173 yards, neither Corral’s passing nor Phillips’ rushing was productive. The Rebels started 0-7 on third-down plays and only managed one conversion in the game.
Memphis: Although the Memphis offense wasn’t as explosive as last year, and was hindered by at least a half-dozen false-start penalties, the Tigers did manage to convert 3 of 5 fourth-down plays. That included one with about three minutes left on the game’s final drive.
Ole Miss: Entertains Arkansas at Oxford on Saturday in its SEC opener.