NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With the exception of that first half against Boise State, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze is very happy with how his Rebels have started this season.
Bo Wallace threw for 320 yards and a touchdown, and 15th-ranked Mississippi routed Vanderbilt 41-3 on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
The Rebels (2-0) have beaten Vanderbilt in Nashville in consecutive seasons after the Commodores had won five of the previous six. The Rebels won in dominating fashion with their largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent since beating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.
“I’m excited to get a road SEC win for sure, and I thought our kids played a pretty solid game,” Freeze said. “I thought Bo managed us really well. He made two decisions that he’ll probably look at the film and say, ‘Man, I should’ve done something different.’ But I thought he played really solid.”
Ole Miss scored on seven of its first eight possessions with the shortest drive covering 67 yards, and the Rebels never punted. Jaylen Walton started the scoring with a 20-yard TD, and I’Tavius Mathers and DeVante Kincade also ran for TDs.
Wallace put the Rebels up 20-0 with a 20-yard TD pass to Cody Core, and he was sacked as the first half ended with Ole Miss threatening to score again. Playing an hour north of his hometown in Pulaski, Tennessee, Wallace had 249 yards by halftime, and his day was done after Mathers’ TD with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
“I love playing here,” Wallace said. “It’s fun for me to come up here. At the same time, it’s just a game. More people I know get to see me play in person, but I don’t think there’s any more pressure.”
The Commodores (0-2) still are searching for first-year coach Derek Mason’s inaugural win, but at least got their first offensive points with a field goal. Vanderbilt played 25 freshmen and redshirt freshmen, and Mason promised they’ll be better in two weeks than they were today.
“We’re just fighting through the growing pains of being young,” Mason said.
This was the third game in Nashville for the Rebels since opening the 2013 season at Vanderbilt and their second straight at LP Field, home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. It was their second road game to open the season, and the Rebels certainly made themselves at home in a crowd of 43,260 in the red and blue seats.
“I’m really pleased at this point that they’ve handled environments that were a little different, that didn’t feel quite like what you feel in some of the stadiums we play in normally,” Freeze said.
Ole Miss outgained Vandy 331-76 in total offense at halftime and finished 547-167. The Rebels also piled up 34 first downs — the most in a game under Freeze.
Cliff Coleman returned an interception 39 yards less than a minute into the second half, and Mathers, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, padded the lead to 34-0 with a 2-yard TD run.
The Commodores have been outscored 78-10 since James Franklin left in January for Penn State.
Vanderbilt didn’t get past midfield against the Rebels until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, and the Commodores had to settle for a field goal after recovering Kincade’s fumble at the Ole Miss 5 in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Rivers started at quarterback after Mason declined to announce a starter after rotating three in an opening loss to Temple.
Rivers was 6-of-25 for 60 yards, and Coleman picked off Rivers’ first pass of the third quarter and ran it back 39 yards for a TD and a 27-0 lead. It was the first career start for Rivers, a transfer from LSU and the younger brother of Philip Rivers of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
“That was my first start, and there were definitely some rookie mistakes,” Rivers said. “I’ve been around a lot of games the past three years, but that was my first start, and there’s definitely things I’m going to learn from.”
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