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Ole Miss starts 2-0 for first time since 2009

The Ole Miss Rebels won their second game of the season Saturday against UTEP, 28-10. However, head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff said the team still have a long way to go.
Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 
Saturday’s win over UTEP was a big milestone for a program trying to get out of the bottom of the Southeastern Conference. 
 
The Rebels’ 28-10 win over the visiting Miners of Conference-USA not only gave Ole Miss their same win total from 2011’s disappointing 2-10 season, but it was the first time Ole Miss opened the season 2-0 since defeating Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana in 2009. It was also the first time the Rebels won back-to-back games since wins over Fresno State and Kentucky in 2010. 
 
“We’re thrilled sitting at 2-0,” head coach Hugh Freeze said following the game. “We beat a good football team tonight. They proved last week they were a great football team, and I thought our kids played with great passion. Obviously, we’ve got a lot to build on. We made it a lot harder than it had to be. The one thing that never was questioned was how hard they were playing for this university, and I think everybody should recognize that.”
 
The Rebels got off to a good start scoring 21 first-half points and shutting out the Miners in the half. Things got started when sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace found sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a 55-yard touchdown pass less than five minutes into the game.
 
“That was something that we put in this week,” Wallace said of the play. “It was a great scheme we had for them. Donte made the guy bite, and it was a really good play.”
 
Moncrief finished the day with three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown and is quickly emerging as a favorite target for Wallace.
 
“I think Donte makes a good pair with anybody playing quarterback,” Wallace said. “Donte is a great player, and I tell him all the time if I give him a chance just don’t let it get intercepted. He is a big physical guy who can make plays.”
 
Wallace threw a 51-yard touchdown to freshman running back Jaylen Walton and ran one in himself from four yards out to give Ole Miss a 21-0 lead going into halftime. 
 
UTEP was able to build some momentum in the third quarter, while the Rebels had a tough time getting anything going.
 
“We fumbled a punt, and that cost us a possession; we drove down and had a negative play on a first down that hurt us, and we didn’t kick field goals,” Freeze said. “But, it wasn’t a question of whether or not our kids’ focus was there. We drove the football. I don’t remember feeling like we couldn’t drive it. We were playing a pretty good team, too, and we have to give them some credit.”
 
The Rebels put the game out of reach from UTEP when Wallace tossed his third touchdown of the day, this time to senior fullback H.R. Greer from three yards out early in the fourth quarter.
 
“That was a play we had for (Greer),” Freeze said. “He deserves it. It makes me happy to see great kids like that in your program. He does everything a student-athlete is asked to do. He’s a leader in the locker room and one of the most solid kids on our team. It thrilled me to see him get into the end zone.”
 
Offensively, Ole Miss outgained UTEP 538 to 311, including 332 to 37 on the ground. The Rebels currently lead the SEC in total offense (551.5 ypg), first downs (56) and rushing offense (283.5 ypg). Perhaps the biggest spark plug for Ole Miss was the return of junior running back Jeff Scott, who led the team in rushing with 113 yards on 13 carries. Scott missed the first game of the season due to a back injury.
 
“We’ve counted on Jeff going into this season,” Freeze said. “Fortunately, he seemed to be healthy tonight. We’re thrilled to have him back.”
 
Wallace finished the day 15-of-22 for 174 yards and three touchdowns but feels he still has things to improve on before next week’s primetime showdown with No. 14 Texas.
 
“I wasn’t very consistent in the third quarter,” Wallace said. “I got really sloppy, so I want to put together four good quarters of football.”
 
The Rebels will welcome the No. 14 ranked Texas Longhorns to Oxford Saturday. The Longhorns (2-0) are coming off a 45-0 win over New Mexico. Ole Miss has not started 3-0 since 1989, despite seven 2-0 starts since then.
 
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