Ole Miss overwhelms Tulane 39-0By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer Saturday, Sep 22, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Chief Brown’s diving interception in the end zone in the final minutes set off exuberant celebrations on the Mississippi sideline, even though the Rebels had led by more than three touchdowns since the first quarter.
For Ole Miss, winning at winless Tulane was not enough. The Rebels’ defense sought redemption after a loss last week in which Texas put up 66 points, and Brown’s drive-ending play punctuated a confidence-restoring 39-0 victory over the Green Wave on Saturday.
“One goal for the week was getting a shutout and that’s exactly what every defensive player wanted to do,” said Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who also had an interception. “It was big-time for us. We need this confidence.”
Mississippi’s offense had its share of highlights as well, piling up 304 yards on the ground, including a pair of touchdowns by Jeff Scott. Mississippi’s Bo Wallace was 7 of 16 for 101 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief. Randall Mackey and Ja-Mes Logan each added running touchdowns.
But it was clear that coach Hugh Freeze took particular satisfaction in the play of his defense in its final game before opening its Southeastern Conference schedule against top-ranked Alabama next weekend.
“It was huge,” Freeze said. “We needed some confidence there. I thought our confidence was shaken a bit last week and obviously, we’re still young at a lot of spots and we’re fixing to get into a great stretch of football teams.
“Anytime you can pitch a shutout at this level, you have to gain some confidence from it.”
The Rebels (3-1) constantly pressured Green Wave freshman quarterback Devin Powell. Making his first start, Powell was sacked three times and threw three interceptions.
“He struggled a little bit,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said of Powell. “He had poor body language a couple of times, but he can still get better. This was his first true start. He’ll get better.”
Tulane (0-3) also struggled to run, finishing with 14 net yards, a statistic that served as another morale boost for the Ole Miss defensive front.
“Last week, defensively, we just had a meltdown,” Mississippi defensive end C.J. Johnson said. “To bounce back with a shutout this week is real big for us.”
Playing for the first time since safety Devon Walker fractured his spine at Tulsa on Sept. 8, Tulane wore Walker’s No. 18 on one side of its helmets. The similarly supportive Rebels had small “DW” stickers on their helmets.
Ole Miss reserve quarterback Barry Brunetti, who rotated in regularly after Rebels jumped out to a large early lead, wound up leading his team in rushing with 67 yards on 13 carries. Scott finished with 62 yards on 11 carries.
If not for three turnovers, the Rebels’ performance would have had few flaws. Those proved inconsequential, however, as Tulane struggled to move the ball.
The Green Wave, losers of 13 straight dating to last season, were 2 of 16 on third-down conversions. Tulane’s longest running play was 10 yards Powell’s scramble early in the fourth quarter.
When Tulane players took the field with their usual T-wave logo replaced by Walker’s number, they were greeted enthusiastically by fans throughout the Superdome wearing white shirts with Walker’s number in green.
“It was very emotional,” said Tulane defensive back Darion Monroe, normally a cornerback who had moved into Walker’s safety spot. “We wanted to win this game for him. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t do it.”
Riding the emotions of the moment, Tulane looked to strike quickly when Powell lofted a pass deep down the right sideline on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Ryan Grant dove to make a 32-yard catch near midfield. The drive quickly stalled there, however, and punter Peter Picerelli could not handle a high snap, giving Ole Miss the ball on the Green Wave 23-yard line.
The Rebels quickly capitalized on the botched punt when Scott scampered 13 yards to make it 6-0, though their 2-point try failed.
Logan’s 14-yard scoring run on a reverse widened Ole Miss’ lead to 12-0, but Tulane again foiled the Rebels’ 2-point conversion.
Mackey’s 28-yard run on a draw made it 19-0, and it only got worse for Tulane when Powell’s deflected pass was intercepted by Nkemdiche in Tulane territory.
The turnover set up Wallace’s scoring strike along the left sideline to Moncrief, making it 26-0 before the end of the opening quarter.
Tulane’s only scoring threat in the first half came when the Green Wave forced a turnover in Ole Miss territory and drove down to the 2, from where Powell, under pressure, threw too high for Justyn Shackleford on fourth-and-goal.
Scott added his 4-yard TD in the third quarter, and Ole Miss tacked on a couple field goals by Bryson Rose.