OXFORD, MS (WLBT) - Ole Miss Football (3-1) returned to the win column Saturday, racking up 651 yards of total offense and tallying seven sacks to down non-conference foe Kent State 38-17 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The contest went through two weather delays, amassing two hours and 36 minutes, to bring the game duration to five hours and 39 minutes.
Saturday marked the third consecutive game the Rebels secured two turnovers and the third time since 2010 that the Rebels registered seven sacks, three of which came from senior Markel Winters.
Ole Miss forced a punt on the opening drive of the game and promptly scored to take a 7-0 lead. Ta’amu was 5-for-5 on the opening drive while A.J. Brown had three receptions for 28 yards. Phillips capped the drive, taking a screen pass 38 yards to put the Rebels ahead.
The visitors responded by driving down inside the Rebel 30-yard line, but a big third down tackle in the backfield by Victor Evans forced Kent State kicker Matthew Trickett into a 48-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide left to keep the score 7-0.
Ta’amu connected with Brown on a 24-yard gain early on the ensuing drive, followed by a 17-yard rush by Phillips. However, the Rebel drive stalled out near midfield. The Landshark defense was dominant on the next possession, however. Josiah Coatney, Qaadir Sheppard, Charles Wiley, and Winters combined for a tackle for loss and two sacks to drop Kent State to 4th-and-25 and an obvious punting situation.
Ole Miss continued to get after Kent State quarterback Woody Barrett on the next drive with a sack by Brenden Williams and Evans to force another punt. The Golden Flashes (1-3) finally broke through on their following drive to knot the game at seven. The Rebels looked to take the lead just before halftime after a 21-yard run by Phillips and a 41-yard run by freshman Tylan Knight, the longest of his collegiate career, set up a 38-yard field goal attempt by Luke Logan. His attempt was blocked, however, and the game entered halftime at 7-7.
Halftime was extended by a 53-minute lightning delay. When the action resumed, the Rebels wasted no time taking the lead. Ta’amu linked up with his top three targets on the first drive of the second half, hitting D.K. Metcalf for an 11-yard gain, DaMarkus Lodge for a 21-yard gain and Brown for 42 yards to set the stage for a 2-yard score by Phillips to put Ole Miss ahead 14-7.
Winters logged his third sack of the day on his following drive, but the Golden Flashes were still able to narrow the deficit on a 32-yard field goal by Trickett.
Two highlight-reel plays on the next drive gave Ole Miss some breathing room. Ta’amu hit Lodge on the sideline, and he hurdled a Kent State defender on a 30-yard scamper. Moments later, Ta’amu found Metcalf deep over the middle, and the Oxford native reeled in a one-handed touchdown grab to make it 21-10. Metcalf has scored in every game this season and the drive was the seventh to take less than a minute.
Kent State responded with a 42-yard kickoff return to set up a scoring drive of its own. Barrett found Shaw for a 15-yard gain and Isaiah McKoy for 16 yards. A few short rushes later, the Kent State quarterback punched in a 2-yard touchdown on the ground to make it 21-17.
Ta’amu overthrew tight end Dawson Knox on the following drive for a Kent State interception, but Woods quickly erased the turnover, pulling down a Barrett pass deep over the middle to give the ball back to the Rebel attack.
Freshman receiver Elijah Moore was instrumental on the next drive, tallying three receptions for 30 yards to help send the Rebels into the red zone and set up a 27-yard Logan field goal.
Knox then took his turn in the Ole Miss receiving carousel on the next drive, notching receptions of 34 and 45 yards to set up a 4-yard rushing score by Ta’amu to push the Ole Miss advantage to 31-17.
The teams returned to the field again after another delay- this one lasting one hour and 43 minutes. Isaiah Woullard made the final score 38-17 with a 7-yard rush in the middle of the 4th quarter.
Ole Miss will play LSU next Saturday in Baton Rouge at 8:15 p.m. CT on ESPN. The Rebels will return to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for Homecoming against ULM on Saturday, Oct. 6.