OXFORD • Freshman John Rhys Plumlee gained his second-straight start, and this time he picked up his first win.
Plumlee rushed for 165 yards on 22 carries to lead the Rebels to a 31-6 homecoming win over Vanderbilt before an announced crowd of 47,601 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
Plumlee rushed for 106 yards last week at Alabama, drawing the start because redshirt freshman Matt Corral missed the game with bruised ribs.
Corral went through a full week of practice, but Plumlee went wire-to-wire. He was 10 for 18 passing for 99 yards.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke had said mid-week that he expected both quarterbacks to play.
“I think you’ll see both of them at some point in the game,” he said following Wednesday’s practice.
Corral, a four-star signee from Ventura, California, was named the starter following the end of last season. There was no competition between he and early enrollees Grant Tisdale and Kinkead Dent in the spring nor was there one in August after Plumlee, a four-star signee from Oak Grove, arrived for camp.
Luke said Corral’s health kept him from playing.
“Matt still wasn’t 100 percent healthy to be able to run the football. I think he could throw it if we needed him to,” Luke said. “Hopefully he’ll continue to get better, and we’ll be able to use him some. People will have to prepare for both.
Plumlee got the Rebels off to a fast start, his run of 54 yards leading to a 41-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive and his 33-yard touchdown run giving Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC) a 10-0 lead with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
Field goals off 22 and 43 yards by Ryley Guay – the latter on the last play of the first half – accounted for all the Vanderbilt scoring, but the Rebels were unable to stretch the lead in the second quarter.
The Ole Miss defense got a stop on Vanderbilt’s opening third-quarter possession, forcing a punt after five plays.
Then the game turned.
On back-to-back possessions Ole Miss freshman backs Jerrion Ealy and Jarod “Snoop” Conner both broke touchdown runs of more than 75 yards.
Ealy’s burst up the middle went for 78 yards as he sidestepped defenders inside the 10, and Conner’s went for 84 yards.
The Commodores (1-4, 0-3 SEC) were never able to find offensive consistency. They finished with 262 total yards, just 62 on the ground.
Graduate transfer quarterback Riley Neal was benched at the start of the fourth quarter in favor of redshirt junior Deuce Wallace, but it made no difference.
Vanderbilt was 2 for 17 on third-down conversion attempts.
Inside linebacker Lakia Henry led the Ole Miss defense with a career-high 15 tackles. He also had a sack and a pressure, one of eight hurries recorded by the Rebels.
Playing alongside Henry inside linebacker Jacquez Jones had nine tackles.
Nose guard Benito Jones had four tackles, a sack and 2 ½ tackles for loss.
“I was really proud of our defense for throwing the shutout in the second half. That was really good. They swarmed to the ball,” Luke said.