Missing the two “quarterbacks” of its non-offensive units, Missouri didn’t play nearly its best game of the season.
Neither Cale Garrett, the Tigers’ defensive captain at middle linebacker, nor Richaud Floyd, the team’s top punt returner, played against Ole Miss on Saturday, Garrett being out indefinitely after having pectoral surgery and Floyd missing the game with a hamstring injury.
Understandably, Missouri struggled at points in both of those phases of the game.
The defense forced the Rebels into a punt on their first drive of the game, but Johnathon Johnson, who is usually reliable as a receiver but hasn’t been as solid returning punts, muffed the catch and Ole Miss recovered, reaching the end zone just over two minutes later.
But the offense managed to help make up for the mistakes — including two missed PATs by kicker Tucker McCann — and a goal line stop to end the first half proved to be enough as Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC) beat Ole Miss (3-4, 2-2 SEC) 38-27 on homecoming night.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant had a strong game, throwing 23 for 35 for 329 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and running backs Larry Rountree III, Dawson Downing and Tyler Badie combined for 220 yards rushing.
Johnson continued to add to his career total in receiving yards, catching eight passes for 110 yards and moving into seventh place in Tigers history with 2,171 total in his career. However, his day didn’t start out as well as it ended.
After Missouri forced Ole Miss into a three-and-out, Rebels punter Mac Brown punted the ball to Johnson at the Tigers’ 28-yard line. Johnson couldn’t handle the punt, though, and Ole Miss recovered the fumble. Then, on the seventh play of the ensuing drive, Plumlee hit Phillips in the end zone after freshman defensive end Isaiah McGuire ended up in coverage to take a 7-0 lead.
Missouri was able to get three points back on McCann’s 31-yard field goal, but for the first time this season, the Tigers trailed at the end of the first quarter.
But in the second quarter, Missouri started to come alive on both sides of the ball. The Tigers ended up taking the lead after scoring nine points in the quarter, getting a 17-yard touchdown on a pass from Bryant to Badie (though that was the first of two McCann missed PATs) and a field goal from 48 yards out.
The biggest play of the quarter, though, came on Ole Miss’ last play of the half.
New Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral managed to lead the Rebels all the way to Missouri’s 1-yard line, and a score would have given Ole Miss the lead. The Rebels called timeout with 00:14 left in the half on fourth and goal, hoping to finish off the half with a touchdown. But Tre Williams and Garrett’s replacement in Cameron Wilkins put an end to those hopes, stopping Ole Miss running back Snoop Conner just inches short of a touchdown and preserving the first half lead.
The Tigers scored 16 straight points in the third quarter thanks to a 41-yard rushing touchdown from Rountree, another McCann field goal and Downing’s first career rushing touchdown, a 54-yarder that he was just barely able to stretch the ball out for.
But the Rebels refused to go away, as Plumlee began to haunt Missouri’s defense.
Plumlee was responsible for three Ole Miss touchdowns in the second half. He found Elijah Moore on a 28-yard touchdown with 2:51 left in the third quarter, and he had two rushing touchdowns for 9 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter to get within 11. The defense looked somewhat lost without Garrett, and Plumlee took advantage.
But a roughing the passer hit by Rebels defensive end Tariqious Tisdale late in the quarter got the Tigers away from their own end zone and a potential safety, and Missouri held on for the win.