No. 22 Mississippi starts fast, routs Central Arkansas 59-3
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin has a well-deserved reputation for developing explosive offensive units, but Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown took a different approach after No. 22 Mississippi beat the Bears 59-3 on Saturday night.
“We knew going in that their defense is really, really good,” Brown said. “They were. I can’t wait to watch them (Ole Miss defense) the rest of the year.”
The Ole Miss forced four turnovers, recorded three sacks and did not allow Central Arkansas to cross midfield until late in the first half. However, it was a fast offensive start and decisive special teams that settled the issue quickly.
Luke Altmyer threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, Michael Trigg had three touchdown catches as Ole Miss (2-0) raced to a 28-0 first-quarter lead. Altmyer threw scoring passes of 1 and 7 yards to Trigg before adding a 1-yard scoring run to cap the decisive surge.
Altmyer was 6 of 13 for 90 yards before being lifted late in the second quarter with what a school spokesperson described as an upper-body injury, pending evaluation.
“Luke was doing a good job until he got banged up,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “That affected him staying out there when he was injured.
Overall, there was improvement from last week but we’ve still got to get better.”
The early outburst opened with a 6-yard touchdown run from Zach Evans.
Ole Miss got a 25-yard punt return for a touchdown from Ladarius Tennyson after a poor snap, and set up another score when Bobo Miller blocked a punt.
“Scoop and score. That’s all I was thinking. That’s all,” said Tennyson, an Auburn transfer. “I saw the punter was down and when that happens, it’s scoop and score.”
Atlantic Sun Conference member Central Arkansas (0-2), trailed 31-0 at halftime. It had 182 yards of total offense.
“It snowballed early with the two blunders in punting,” Brown said. “We knew it would be uphill against a great program and that put us behind the eight-ball.”
Hayden Ray made a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.
Jaxson Dart, a transfer from Southern California, relieved Altmyer and finished 10 of 15 passing for 182 yards, highlighted by touchdown passes of 6 yards to Malik Heath and 2 yards to Trigg.
“Jaxson did some good things when he got in there,” Kiffin said. “He had some good series, a bad series, then came back with more good series. It was a cleaner second half, but not perfect.”
Ole Miss finished with 487 yards of total offense. Quinshon Judkins rushed for 104 yards as the Rebels pulled away, leading 52-0 after three periods..
Central Arkansas: The FCS-member Bears were down 28-0 in less than 13 minutes. Demetrias Charles had eight tackles and KC Clark added an interception to highlight an overworked defense.
Mississippi: The defense and special teams were outstanding, including a 41-yard field goal from Jonathan Cruz. Pending the physical evaluation of Altmyer, the quarterback role figures to be filled exclusively Dart.
The Rebels improved to 10 of 11 in the red zone for the season, all touchdowns, after going 6 of 7 against Central Arkansas. Improving that efficiency was a high priority for the Rebels, especially early in the schedule.
Last season, “jackpot-type” scoring plays, beyond 20 yards, more than compensated for finishing No. 115 nationally, 52 of 69, 75 percent in the red zone. This season, with fewer long distance touchdowns, a continued higher efficiency will be crucial as the schedule stiffens.
Ole Miss dropped a spot last week despite a win over Troy, so improving to 2-0 should not force a major move in either direction. The Rebels are ranked seventh of the eight SEC teams in the Top 25.
Mississippi: The Rebels visit Georgia Tech on Saturday for the first time since the 1971 Peach Bowl, a 41-18 Ole Miss win.
Central Arkansas: The Bears return to FCS competition with a visit Idaho State of the Big Sky Conference on Saturday.
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By CHRIS BURROWS