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Ealy powers Ole Miss past Southeastern Louisiana

OXFORD (AP) — Ole Miss running back Jerrion Ealy had flashes of brilliance in preseason practice and in limited appearances in his first two games. The true freshman had that much-anticipated breakout performance Saturday in a 40-29 win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Ealy turned in 273 all-purpose yards, including a 94-yard kickoff return touchdown and a 30-yard scoring run, as the Rebels (2-1) beat back a challenge from the FCS Lions (1-1), who had two drives finish inside Ole Miss territory in the fourth quarter.

“Man, I’m so proud of Jerrion. Really proud,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “He was the difference in the game with that kickoff return and run. That got us in front and we scrapped and clawed to get the win.”

Matt Corral finished 21-of-30 passing for 239 yards and two touchdowns as well as directing a pair of time-consuming, fourth quarter field goal drives. Luke Logan connected on field goals of 22 and 32 yards that preserved the win.

Ealy’s kickoff return came in the first quarter, and his touchdown run in the second.

“On that kickoff return, I saw it open to the left and all I could think was I better score,” Ealy said. “It was open and I don’t get caught (from behind). Well, it’s never happened. On the touchdown run, it’s always about the offensive line and the job they do.”

Chason Virgil kept the Lions within striking distance with 309 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing, but was intercepted three times.

“Ultimately, we turned the ball over four times and did not play well on special teams,” Southeastern Louisiana coach Frank Scelfo said. “You can’t do those things against good teams like Ole Miss and expect to win.”

The Rebels never trailed but could not break away despite rolling up 459 yards of total offense, including a game-high 103 rushing yards by Scottie Phillips. Corral threw touchdown passes of 9 and 5 yards to Elijah Moore and Jason Pellerin, respectively.

Virgil threw touchdown passes of 45 and 5 yards to Juwan Petit-Frere and Bransen Schwebel, respectively, in the third quarter to pull the Lions within 34-29 and set up the heroics by the Ole Miss defense.

Defensively, the Rebels struggled, but made enough big plays — three interceptions, a fumble recovery and two late stops on fourth down — to seal it.

Southeastern Louisiana only had 66 rushing yards, marking the first time 2015 that Ole Miss has held an opponent under 100. The Rebels’ three interceptions were also the most in one game since 2016.

“I was proud of those fourth-quarter drives,” Luke said. “We put them in a two-score situation and that was enough to win.”