OXFORD – (AP) Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace was not impressed and he certainly wasn’t satisfied.
“I really can’t be, to tell you the truth,” said Wallace, despite throwing for three touchdowns and running for another to lead the Rebels to a 28-10 win over Texas-El Paso Saturday. “I thought I played well for the first half, but I was sloppy in the second half.”
By that time, the issue had been settled. Wallace sparked Ole Miss (2-0) to a 21-0 halftime lead and the Rebels kept UTEP (0-2) at a comfortable distance in the second half. Wallace finished 15 of 22 for 174 yards and added 53 yards rushing on 11 carries.
“Wins are important, but I’m never satisfied personally unless I have a perfect game,” Wallace said. “The most exciting thing for me was to see how well Jeff Scott ran the ball. He’s an exciting player that really helps us.”
Scott added 113 yards rushing on 13 carries as the Rebels finished with 538 yards in total offense. It marked the first time since 2009 that Ole Miss rolled up 500-plus yards in total offense in consecutive games after topping that mark in the season opening win over Central Arkansas.
UTEP (0-2), after failing to score an offensive touchdown for six quarters, battled within 21-10 late in the third quarter before the Rebels put it away on Wallace’s final touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to H.R. Greer with 11:18 remaining.
“We did not make it easy.” first-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “It wasn’t a complete game. We had some outstanding individual performances, but the real difference was the defense made the big plays with passion.”
UTEP failed on a pair of second quarter scoring opportunities. Lamaison was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line by tackle Gilbert Pena. On the ensuring series, reserve quarterback Carson Meger was picked off in the end zone by Ole Miss safety Cody Prewett.
“I thought those two series were the key to the game,” Freeze said.
The Rebels set the tone on their opening possession, as Wallace’s first completion was a 55-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief. The stop-and-go sidelines route was the longest play of the contest, as Moncrief finished with three receptions for 72 yards.
Ole Miss broke it open with consecutive touchdown drives of 97 and 84 yards to push its advantage to 21-0. Wallace capped the initial drive with a 51-yard touchdown strike to Jaylen Walton and finished the final scoring series with a 4-yard run with 28 seconds left.
UTEP scored on the opening series of third quarter as Nick Lamaison threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Jordan Leslie. The Miners pulled within 21-10 with 2:58 left in the third period on a 37-yard field goal by Steven Valadez.
Nick Lamaison finished 21 of 33 for 213 yards but was sacked five times and the Miners never seriously threatened on their two possessions in the fourth quarter. Defensively, safety Richard Spencer led the Miners with 11 tackles, recovered two fumbles and forced another fumble.
“We call it the orange zone and we just could not convert,” UTEP coach Mike Price said. “Coulda’, shoulda’, woulda’, but I’m proud of this team. They did not give up.”
Ole Miss is off to its best start since 2009, when the Rebels won the Cotton Bowl. The win marked only the second time in the past 10 seasons that Ole Miss has opened the season 2-0.
Freeze said of his players, “The one thing we never questioned was how hard they played for this university. Everyone should recognize that. I’m so proud for these guys.”