The Ole Miss defense recorded a season-high nine sacks, seven in the first half, and allowed the Rebel offense to dig an early hole for the opposition. In the end, the Rebels (7-2, 3-2 SEC) did enough to knock off the Liberty Flames 27-14 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
Matt Corral completed 20 of 27 passes for 324 yards and threw his only touchdown pass to Dannis Jackson, who had a career-high 126 yards on six catches. John Rhys Plumlee also had a career-high 110 yards on seven catches through the air. Jerrion Ealy had a season-high 115 yards rushing on 10 carries to go along with his two rushing scores.
Defensively, the Rebels pitched a first-half shutout for the second time this season and were active in the Liberty backfield the majority of the contest. AJ Finley led the Ole Miss defense with a season-high 12 tackles and had two interceptions. Jaylon Jones also recorded an interception, the first of his long Rebel career. The three team interceptions were the most for Ole Miss since 2019. Chance Campbell and Sam Williams finished with two sacks apiece, with the latter pushing his sack total to 10.5, a single-season school record in the modern era.
Despite the gaudy numbers defensively, the Flames had a second half rally that ultimately came up short due to an excellent Rebel start. Ole Miss needed just two plays to get on the board first. Ealy found an open hole left side and hit it for a 70-yard touchdown run. Just over 30 seconds into the ball game, the Rebels had a 7-0 lead. The Flames used scorching tempo to get into Rebel territory and were about to attempt a field goal, but a delay of game penalty forced them to punt the ball away.
The Rebel defense again bent but didn’t break on the next series. The Flames reached the Ole Miss 12-yard line, but a few shaky plays and a sack by Campbell forced a 38-yard field goal by Brayden Beck. The kick sailed wide left and the Rebels took advantage. After a 50-yard reception by Jacksonto get into range for a 43-yard Caden Costa field goal to give the Rebels a 10-0 lead with 1:22 left in the opening quarter.
Following a three-and-out, Corral and company used four plays to score again. Helped by a 44-yard reception by Braylon Sanders, Ealy scored his second rushing touchdown of the game from four yards out, racing to the left pylon. With 13:13 let in the second quarter, the Rebels had a 17-0 lead.
A few drives later, the Flames cross midfield again, but Willis threw a second interception to Finley. Five plays later, Ole Miss capitalized. After two first down runs by Ealy, Corral found Jackson all alone right side for a 40-yard touchdown strike. Tavius Robinson ended the first half with an exclamation point, sacking Willis and going into the locker room with a commanding 24-0 lead.
Liberty finally broke through on the opening drive of the second half. Shedro Lewis capped off an eight play, 75-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown. Still, the Flames trailed 24-7 with 10:31 left in the third quarter. Ole Miss responded with a 38-yard Costa field goal to cap off a nine-play, 54-yard drive that gave the Rebels a 27-7 lead with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
The Flames cut the deficit even closer as Willis led a 73-yard drive and capped it off with a three-yard touchdown run. The Rebels held a 27-14 lead going into the final quarter of play and the defense came up clutch on a 4th and-4 play for Liberty from the Ole Miss 34-yard line. Willis rolled out to his right and his pass to Frith on the sideline was broken up by Keidron Smith.
Liberty had another chance with 9:14 left to play, but sacks by Williams and Cedric Johnson forced the Flames to punt. The Rebels attempted to burn the clock with 5:16 left to go, but only managed to keep possession for 1:46 as they were forced to punt the ball away. With time running out, the Flames reached the Rebel 21-yard line, but Finley picked off Willis again in the end zone to seal an Ole Miss victory.
The Rebels continue their three-game homestand next Saturday, Nov. 13, against SEC West foe Texas A&M. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPN or listened to on the Ole Miss Radio Network.