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A New Beginning

Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns to lead Rebels to 49-27 win in Saturday’s season opener against Central Arkansas. It was the first time the team has won its opening game since 2009.
Thomas Granning/The Daily Mississippian

 
It was a feeling that had not been felt in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in nearly a year. 
 
The Ole Miss football team rebounded from a lackluster second quarter and scored 35 unanswered points in the second half for a 49-27 win against Central Arkansas to begin the season 1-0 for the first time since 2009. The Rebels rushed to the student section to share in the moment, the program’s first home win since last season’s 42-24 win against Southern Illinois in the second week of the season. 
 
“We’re thrilled to get a win,” Freeze said. “Wins are important, no matter who they’re against or when they occur. We’ve been in this long enough to know that, and the joy that’s in that locker room right now is special. The kids are having a blast in there, and it’s been a while since they’ve been able to rejoice, so I’m very excited for them. I’m very, very happy for our young men and our coaches and the Rebel Nation that we can start the season 1-0.”
 
Freeze said that his first game at the helm was an emotional one for him and his family.
 
“I was a bit overwhelmed by the Walk of Champions,” Freeze said. “Humbled, I think is the word. I know it might be hard for me to put it into words. You so badly want to deliver when the people are excited about a hometown boy being here or whatever it is. ‘I sure want to give them something to cheer for’ is what I was thinking going through. 
 
“Seeing my family was a little emotional at the end of the walk there. They were more emotional than I was, but after the game, to be 1-0 at the University of Mississippi is a great feeling.”
 
Ole Miss put up 14 first-quarter points, but that was it for the half, and Central Arkansas took a 20-14 lead going into halftime. 
 
The Rebels got things started at the 10:48 mark in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace scored his first touchdown as a Rebel on a 25-yard run. Wallace was the leading rusher for the Rebels, finishing with 82 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
 
After Central Arkansas tied the game at 7-7, Ole Miss freshman running back Jaylen Walton found the end zone for the Rebels from 10 yards out. It was Walton’s first carry in an Ole Miss uniform. 
 
Central Arkansas dominated the second quarter and scored twice on a two-yard run by Terence Bobo and a 62-yard reception by Al Lasker from quarterback Wynrick Smothers. In the second quarter, Ole Miss was forced to punt twice, missed a field goal and had another field goal attempt blocked.
 
Going into halftime down six, Freeze said the team made a lot of adjustments on defense and came out and executed better in the second half on offense.
 
“(Defensive coordinator) Dave (Wommack) made a lot of adjustments defensively,” Freeze said. “We didn’t make a lot offensively. It was just execution. The times we didn’t do well in the first half, we had some blown assignments up front and some gap schemes that allowed some run-throughs. That gave us some negative plays, and we didn’t protect very well there at the end of the first half. 
 
“Offensively, we didn’t do a lot. We hit them for two touchdowns. Other than that, that’s the only thing we did offensively.”
 
A new team emerged from the locker room for Ole Miss in the second half, and the Rebels went on a tear, scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half and only allowing seven points to Central Arkansas in the second half.
 
Ole Miss regained the lead from Central Arkansas with 6:40 left in the third quarter on a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior Ja-Mes Logan. The play started when Wallace took off from the pocket and attempted to leap over a pile of players at the goal line and fumbled. Logan was in the right place to jump on top of the loose ball. 
 
It wasn’t long before the Rebels scored again, with Wallace finding sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a 53-yard pass touchdown on arguably the best play of the game. Wallace squeezed the ball just past the defender into Moncrief’s hands.
 
“(Bo) told me before the play started if the safety came down he was going to come to me,” Moncrief said. “Once I saw the safety go down, I was like, wow, he is actually about to throw this ball. Once he threw it, it was a pass interference, but I kept my eye on it and made a big play.”
 
Moncrief had a huge game for the Rebels, finishing with eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
 
In the third quarter the Rebels outrushed Central Arkansas 81-0, while outgaining the Bears 97-35 through the air. Ole Miss entered the fourth quarter leading 28-20.
 
Success continued into the fourth quarter for Ole Miss. Junior Barry Brunetti, who split time with Wallace at quarterback, found senior tight end Jamal Mosley from 11 yards out to extend the Ole Miss lead to 15 and put the game away for the Rebels.
 
Wallace’s found junior wide receiver Philander Moore for a 25-yard touchdown, his second passing touchdown of the game. Brunetti finished the scoring for the Rebels with an 11-yard touchdown run. 
 
On the day, Wallace finished 20-of-24 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Brunetti was 5-of-7 for 66 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Freeze announced Wallace would start Saturday’s game against UTEP.
 
“Bo started this game, and he’ll start the next one,” Freeze said. “But again, I’m not ready to say that Barry is out of it. Barry did some real nice things, too, but certainly Bo had a great game, and I’ve always known that he’s a gamer.”
 
Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche led the team with eight tackles, followed by senior linebacker Joel Kight with seven. Nkemdiche, Kight and sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson each recorded a sack and junior safety Frank Crawford recorded an interception.
 
The Rebels will face off with UTEP next Saturday in Oxford. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports South.
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @SigNewton_2 on Twitter.