Texas’ defense can’t stop No. 25 Ole Miss, 44-23
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — For a little while, Texas dialed up some defense.
In the end, the Longhorns were staring at another lopsided defeat and answering more questions about their defense — and the future of their coach and the program this season and beyond.
Jeff Scott ran for 164 yards and a touchdown, scored another on a punt return and No. 25 Mississippi used a powerful running game and dominant defense in the second half to roll to a 44-23 victory Saturday night.
Bo Wallace passed for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Rebels (3-0).
Texas had rallied from a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter to lead 23-14. The Rebels closed the first half with a 52-yard field goal by Andrew Ritter and Wallace directed consecutive touchdown drives in the third quarter.
Scott provided the dagger when he eluded six tacklers on a weaving, cross-field touchdown return that put the Rebels ahead 37-23.
Texas, which gave up 550 yards rushing a week earlier in a loss to BYU, surrendered 274 on the ground to Ole Miss.
The Longhorns dropped to 1-2 for the first time since 1998, coach Mack Brown’s first season. Mississippi is also just the latest visiting team to wallop Texas on its home turf. The Longhorns are 11-10 at home since 2010, including seven consecutive losses to ranked opponents.
“We can get this right by winning the Big 12 championship,” Brown said. “That’s all we’ve got left.”
Like BYU a week earlier, Ole Miss found a play — a speed option to send Scott scampering to the outside — that Texas couldn’t stop, and the Rebels wouldn’t stop running it.
“They were running the same play over and over again,” Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks said.
For Mississippi, a road win at a historical powerhouse such as Texas will be another confidence boost under second-year coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels are ranked for the first time since 2009, are 3-0 for the first time since 1989 and have a week off before playing at No. 1 Alabama.
The loss will turn up the heat on Brown, who is facing the most serious grumbling from a restless fan base in his 16 seasons in Austin. After three sub-par seasons, the Longhorns had hopes of contending for the Big 12 title and returning to the national stage.
Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after the BYU loss and brought back Greg Robinson, the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator in 2004. Texas was more aggressive against the Rebels, but still gave up big yards rushing and surrendered a halftime lead when it looked as if the Longhorns were firmly in control.
The offense stumbled as well, gaining just 100 yards in the second half. Case McCoy started at quarterback in place of injured David Ash and passed for 196 yards and one touchdown to Mike Davis.
The Rebels scored on their first two drives for a quick 14-0 lead. Wallace and Scott carved up the Longhorns on the read option and Scott scored on a five-yard run before Wallace connected with Donte Moncrief on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
At one point in the first half, a pre-recorded message from Brown on the scoreboard video screen was greeted with audible boos from the crowd of 101,474, the third-largest in school history.
Texas fought back with 23 straight points. The defense recovered a Wallace fumble, swatted a fourth-down pass and McCoy started connecting on short completions.
The Rebels retook the lead on two impressive drives in the third. Ole Miss returned to the dominant running game it had early and Wallace scored on a 15-yard run when he spun through two defenders at the goal line. After a Texas punt, Wallace found Evan Engram for a 17-yard scoring pass.
Asked what he would say to Texas fans, Brown responded: “Keep coming. Let’s beat Kansas State (next week). Forget the coaches, come for the kids.”