OXFORD, Miss. -- Jeff Scott rushed for three touchdowns and scored another on a punt return as Mississippi beat Southern Illinois 42-24 on Saturday night.
The 5-foot-7, 175-pound sophomore rushed for 118 yards on 16 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game, including a 67-yard punt return down the right sideline to give the Rebels a 21-0 lead.
The rest of the game wasn't as easy. Ole Miss (1-1) had a 35-10 lead early in the third quarter before Southern Illinois responded with two touchdown drives in the second half to pull within 35-24.
Ole Miss was playing without its top two running backs -- seniors Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis -- after the pair suffered injuries in last week's season opener against BYU. But Scott was spectacular in their place, rushing for touchdowns of 37 and 4 yards in the opening minutes before a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown pushed the Rebels' lead to 21-0 with 9:09 remaining in the first half. He added a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Scott's first touchdown was the most spectacular. He broke several tackles and juked one Southern Illinois defender before finding open space and eventually the end zone.
Nutt has said Scott is the fastest of the Rebel running backs, but sometimes struggles with blocking assignments and fumbles. He didn't appear to have any of those problems against the Salukis, though, and his performance gives the Rebels confidence heading into next week's Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt.
Zack Stoudt was decent in his first start as the Ole Miss quarterback, completing 11 of 18 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Randall Mackey also played after he served a one-game suspension because of his arrest following a bar fight, leading the Rebels on two touchdown drives. He completed his only pass for 18 yards and also rushed six times for 36 yards.
Barry Brunetti, the starting quarterback against BYU, did not play.
Games against Football Championship Subdivision teams are usually considered sure wins, but the Rebels weren't in position to take any opponent lightly. Ole Miss is barely one year removed from a 49-48 double overtime loss to FCS opponent Jacksonville State that qualified as one of the most embarrassing moments in program history.
It wouldn't happen again, though the Salukis did keep things interesting for much of the night.
Jewel Hampton rushed for a 2-yard touchdown late in the first half to pull the Salukis within 28-10 at halftime. Scott's fourth touchdown of the night stretched the Rebels' lead to 35-10 with 10:23 left in the third quarter, but SIU responded with two touchdowns to pull within 35-24 with 6:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Southern Illinois outgained Ole Miss 420-315.
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