Jerrion Ealy rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns and No. 16 Ole Miss’ defense hounded Liberty star quarterback Malik Willis in a 27-14 victory Saturday, spoiling the homecoming of former Rebels coach Hugh Freeze in Oxford, Miss.
The running back found paydirt twice as the Rebels led 24-0 in the first half — one in which the defense sacked Willis seven times.
Ole Miss (7-2) recorded nine sacks and three interceptions of Willis, a high first-round draft projection playing in front of 22 NFL scouts and executives.
He ended up 16-of-25 for 173 yards and rushed 21 times for 71 yards and a 3-yard touchdown.
In the first half, Jaylon Jones recorded his first career interception, and AJ Finley also added a pick of Willis.
For Ole Miss, Matt Corral went 20-of-27 for 324 yards and tossed a scoring pass to Dannis Jackson, who snared six passes for a game-high 126 yards.
John Rhys Plumlee had 110 yards on seven receptions.
An Oxford native and Rebels head coach for five seasons, Freeze resigned in 2017 amid recruiting and personal conduct scandals.
The Flames (7-3) got 101 yards and a score on seven carries from Shedro Lewis. Joshua Mack posted 98 yards on 19 rushes.
In the first meeting between the two schools, the Rebels were an unwelcoming host to their former coach immediately — scoring 17 unanswered points in the game’s first 17 minutes.
On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Ealy made it 7-0 by taking a handoff and racing untouched on a season-long 70-yard dash.
After Liberty’s Brayden Beck missed wide left on a field-goal attempt from 38 yards, Caden Costa pushed Ole Miss’ lead to 10-0 by nailing a 43-yarder.
Ealy’s four-yard run capped a four-play, 58-yard drive as the Rebels tallied for the third time in four series.
Finley’s interception set up the first half’s final score — Corral’s 40-yard pass to Jackson on a crossing route with 1:27 to go to make it 24-0.
Liberty struck on a 75-yard drive to open the second half, with Lewis racing 28 yards for his fourth TD of the season, but Costa answered with a 38-yard field goal for a 27-7 Ole Miss advantage midway through the third quarter.
Willis scored on his 3-yard TD run late in the third quarter as the Flames pulled to within two scores, 27-14.
But Finley sealed the win with his second pick of Willis in the game’s last minute and Liberty deep in Ole Miss territory.
–Field Level Media
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