Ole Miss offense struggles in loss

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 25, 2011

OXFORD (AP) — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington smacked aside a Mississippi offensive lineman and headed straight for the quarterback.

He arrived in plenty of time, wrapping up Mississippi’s Randall Mackey before slamming him to the turf for a loss of 17 yards.

It was a fitting end to a dominant day for Georgia’s defense.

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The Bulldogs held Ole Miss to just 183 total yards and a single offensive touchdown in a 27-13 victory on Saturday.

“I thought our defense came out in the second half and played a dominant game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The defense finished this game extremely well. One play could have made it ugly and nasty for us, but our defense just didn’t (allow) that.”

While Georgia’s defense was thriving, the offense proved capable as well. Aaron Murray completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Isaiah Crowell rushed for 147 yards on 30 carries, helping the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) grind to the road victory. Malcolm Mitchell caught three passes for 93 yards as the Bulldogs gained 475 total yards.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 17-0 lead by midway through the second quarter and took a 24-13 lead into halftime. Bulldogs’ kicker Blair Walsh missed three field goals in the second half, but the Ole Miss offense could never capitalize.

Georgia has won eight straight games in the series, dating back to 1997. Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2) has lost 10 of their past 11 SEC games.

Georgia dominated early, with the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Crowell gashing the Ole Miss defense on the ground for several big gains. Murray’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Orson Charles gave the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead with 6:01 in the second quarter.

“The first half was great offensively,” Murray said. “We didn’t make mistakes and we were efficient … You could tell today that we’ve made some big strides since week one.”

But the Rebels responded with an unexpected flurry that briefly made things interesting. After a reverse handoff, Randall Mackey hit a wide-open Donte Moncrief for a 38-yard touchdown to pull within 17-7. Then Ole Miss immediately recovered an onside kick and the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 58,042 finally had something to cheer about.

The momentum was short lived — Mackey threw an interception three plays later.

The loss is another blow to Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s job security. The Rebels have a 5-11 record dating back to last season and the backlash from fans has grown louder by the week. Athletic director Pete Boone said he wanted to see more “fire” from the football team after a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Sept. 17.

The Rebels were slightly more competitive. But the results were the same.

“Obviously 183 yards of offense isn’t enough to win in this conference or any conference,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said. “We’ve got to improve on that. But I did think there was improvement. I thought our guys fought.”

Ole Miss couldn’t do much on offense unless it was in the form of a trick play. Both of the Rebels’ touchdowns came after a reverse. Randall Mackey threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief after taking a handoff from running back Jeff Scott. Nick Brassell scored on an 81-yard punt return after Scott caught the punt, ran across the field and handed off to Brassell.

Anything conventional was almost immediately stuffed.

The Rebels rotated Zack Stoudt and Mackey throughout the game, but neither was impressive. Stoudt completed just 7 of 23 passes for 71 yards and an interception. Mackey completed 3 of 7 passes for 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception.