A new month finally brought a competitive opponent for the Tigers, and then some. The Ole Miss Rebels showed the kind of talent that has a team ranked 17th in the country despite two losses in September. After falling behind 24-7 in the first half, the Tigers scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to close within six points (27-21), but the Rebels answered with three second-half touchdowns to avenge last season's loss at the Liberty Bowl and improve to 3-2 for the season.
Playing their first road game of the season, the Tigers fell behind 14-0 late in the first quarter when Zedrick Woods returned an interception of a Riley Ferguson
toss 31 yards for a touchdown. (Memphis tight end Daniel Montiel didn't turn around on the timing play.) A 64-yard Tiger drive ensued, capped by a 6-yard run by wideout Anthony Miller
Reserve cornerback Jahmahl Pardner dropped an interception opportunity in the second quarter, allowing Ole Miss to convert a field goal. On the next Memphis possession, Ferguson fumbled as he was hit from behind with the Tigers in field goal range. Reserve quarterback Jason Pellerin ran for his second touchdown of the game on the ensuing possession to secure that 24-7 halftime lead.
A brilliantly executed fake punt — a throw from punter Spencer Smith
to Arthur Maulet
as he crossed laterally — spurred the Tigers in the third quarter. A 42-yard Ferguson-to-Miller pass led to an 11-yard touchdown run by Doroland Dorceus
, the 20th score of the junior's college career. On their next possession, the Tigers took advantage of an Ole Miss pass-interference penalty to march 99 yards, Ferguson scoring himself from the one to make the score 27-21.
Ole Miss scored on its next two possessions, though, helped by a shanked punt off the foot of Smith. A Maulet interception of a Chad Kelly pass and a second Ferguson touchdown kept the Tigers' hopes alive, but only until Rebel tailback Eugene Brazley scampered 32 yards (on third-and-15) for a touchdown with five minutes to play for a 48-28 Rebel lead.
Memphis entered the game allowing an average of 287 yards but gave up 620 to the balanced Rebel attack.
Kelly completed 30 of 44 passes for 361 yards for the Rebels, while Ferguson completed 30 of 46 for 343 with three interceptions (he had two in his first three games). Miller caught 10 passes for 132 yards and Dorceus led the Tiger ground game with 72 yards on 14 carries. Brazley (124) and Akeem Judd (108) each topped 100 yards rushing for Ole Miss.
The loss drops the Tigers to 3-1 on the season. They'll open American Athletic Conference play Thursday night, when Temple (3-2) visits the Liberty Bowl. Ole Miss enjoys a bye week then resumes SEC play on October 15th when the Rebels travel to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks.