OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Jaylen Walton ran for a key fourth-quarter touchdown, and No. 10 Mississippi used a dominant defensive performance to beat Memphis 24-3 on Saturday night.
The Rebels (4-0) are undefeated through four games for the first time since 1970, overcoming a mistake-riddled performance by the offense and special teams.
It was an ugly night for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The senior was 22-of-37 passing for 248 yards and two touchdowns — both to Laquon Treadwell.
Ole Miss led just 7-3 after three quarters. Andrew Fletcher made a 19-yard field goal — after missing his first two attempts earlier in the game — to increase the Rebels’ lead early in the fourth.
Walton’s 23-yard run with 9:34 remaining pushed the advantage to 17-3. Memphis (2-2) managed just 104 total yards.
Treadwell finished with five catches for 123 yards. Walton rushed for 78 yards on 10 carries.
It was the first time Ole Miss played as a top-10 team since 2009. The Rebels didn’t look the part on offense or special teams.
But the defense was terrific. Trae Elston grabbed an interception in the third quarter that ended a promising Memphis drive and Marquis Haynes forced a fumble — which was recovered by Issac Gross — that set up Walton’s touchdown run.
Ole Miss bumbled its way to a 7-3 halftime lead, failing to capitalize on a big statistical advantage in most categories.
Wallace’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Treadwell early in the first quarter gave the Rebels an early 7-0 advantage and a stout defensive line held Memphis to minus-4 rushing yards.
But the Rebels also had a series of bad and sometimes bizarre moments. Markell Pack fumbled a punt and Wallace threw two interceptions that ended promising drives.
To top it off, kickoff specialist Gary Wunderlich was ejected for fighting after a short melee between the two teams.
It wasn’t any better for much of the second half. A 71-yard touchdown run by Mark Dodson was called back late in the third quarter because of a holding penalty on Treadwell, drawing an audible groan from the crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Even the Ole Miss coaching staff had costly mistakes. Coach Hugh Freeze drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after arguing a call early in the fourth.
It’s not the first time Memphis — under third-year coach Justin Fuente — has given a nationally ranked program trouble this season.
The Tigers stayed right with No. 11 UCLA in a 42-35 loss on Sept. 6. This one didn’t have the offensive fireworks, but it did have the drama.
Memphis simply couldn’t move the ball. Paxton Lynch completed just 13 of 31 passes for 81 yards.
The Rebels’ win sets up the biggest home game for the program in more than a decade. They will host No. 3 Alabama on Saturday.
Ole Miss likely will have to play much better against the Crimson Tide to even have a chance.
It was a festive atmosphere early in Oxford until the lackluster performance. The Rebels spent much of the weekend honoring the memory of Chucky Mullins, an Ole Miss defensive back who was paralyzed while making a tackle in 1989 and died 18 months later from a blood clot.
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