Lackluster Ole Miss survives Memphis
Posted: Monday, September 7, 2009 3:38 pm
By: By CHRIS TALBOTT, Associated Press Writer
MEMPHIS (AP) — Jevan Snead is an outsider candidate for the Heisman Trophy and the unquestioned leader for No. 8 Mississippi. Fon Ingram is a little-known backup free safety.
Yet it was Ingram who made the big play that spurred the Rebels to life in a tougher-than-expected 45-14 win over Memphis on Sunday.
Ingram stepped in front of an Arkelon Hall pass late in the second quarter and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.
“It was just being in the right place at the right time,” Ingram said. “He threw it right to me, and when I caught it I knew it was six (points).”
And coach Houston Nutt knew it was just the play the Rebels needed after a dysfunctional first half that included three turnovers — including two interceptions by Snead — three punts and 144 total yards.
“Oh, that was absolutely huge. Huge,” Nutt said. “That was a lot of momentum, and it gave us some confidence, and that really helped us.”
The offense snapped out of it in the second half and Snead finished strong, hitting 4-of-5 passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns to Dexter McCluster and Markeith Summers in the fourth quarter to break open an uncomfortably close game.
“Another thing you have to love about Jevan is that when things don’t go just right, he doesn’t put his head down,” Nutt said. “You don’t have to be concerned about that. He’s a winner, and the guy really came back and played well.”
Snead, who got off to a slow start last season before rallying the Rebels to six straight wins, completed just 8-of-17 passes for 102 yards with two interceptions through three quarters — though Nutt was quick to note it wasn’t all his junior quarterback’s fault.
The Rebels had problems with protection, execution and a fired-up Tigers squad that was debuting several new Division I transfers.
It looked like Memphis might take the lead late in the second quarter.
The Tigers trailed 10-7 and appeared to have an opportunity to drive when Ingram stepped in front of Hall’s pass and gave the Rebels a 17-7 halftime lead.
Ingram’s interception return was just one of Hall’s problems.
He was harassed all day by Ole Miss’ deep and athletic defensive line and was unable to find 6-foot-9 Carlos Singleton or 6-foot-4 Duke Calhoun, who did finish with four catches to set the school career record (148).
Hall completed 15-of-30 passes with two interceptions for 110 yards.
He had 37 yards in the first half and limited the Tigers’ effectiveness with several poor passes.
The Tigers had 284 total yards, three turnovers and were 0-for-2 on fourth-down conversions and 4-for-16 on third down.
“You’ve got to give our defense a lot of credit,” Snead said.
The defense’s early stand was repaid as the offense gained strength.
Brandon Bolden rushed for 71 yards on nine carries, scored one touchdown and set up McCluster’s one-yard plunge in the third quarter with a 28-yard run.
McCluster had 50 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving. Enrique Davis finished off the game with a 29-yard scoring run.
Memphis coach Tommy West stocked up on transfers the last two years in an attempt to improve the talent on his roster and it appeared to work for a while, especially on defense and in the running game.
Curtis Steele had 90 yards and two touchdowns, including one that cut it to 24-14.
Wisconsin transfer Lance Smith added 63 yards rushing for the Tigers.
The team couldn’t overcome the performance by Hall, though, and West acknowledged it might be time to look more closely at the position.
“I don’t want to create a quarterback deal, but then again we have to play better than we did today,” West said. “I think we all know that. That is not a secret to anyone that watched the game. We can’t continue to make errors and give up touchdowns.”