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November 7, 2009

Rebels overcome slow start, blow out NAU

Alex Henderson's 3-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter Saturday night pulled Northern Arizona into a 14-14 tie with Ole Miss.

Henderson's scoring run, his second of the night, apparently served as the Rebels' wake-up call.

Ole Miss answered with a seven-play, 61-yard touchdown drive, the first of 24 unanswered points as the Rebels pulled away for a 38-14 win.

"That was a very difficult week," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "Anytime you come off a loss as hard as (the Rebels' 33-20 loss at Auburn) was to swallow last week in the SEC and then you jump out of the SEC, it's very difficult to get your guys ready to go."

Ole Miss improved to 6-3, though the Rebels remain one win shy of bowl eligibility. Northern Arizona (5-4) is the second Football Championship Subdivision team Ole Miss has beaten this season. Ole Miss whipped Southeastern Louisiana, 52-6, on Sept. 19 in Oxford. By rule, a Football Bowl Subdivision team can only count one win over an FCS team toward its postseason eligibility.

Ole Miss returns to Southeastern Conference play the next three weeks, starting with next Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown against Tennessee and former Rebel head coach Ed Orgeron.

"It's a big game for bowls, but it's a big game for character and I would say pride," said Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who was recruited to Oxford by Orgeron. "It's about getting this nasty taste from the past two years about this guy. It's kind of like a revenge factor, not necessarily to him but to the team that he's associated with now. It's going to be a little personal.

That was said in the locker room. It's personal now. It's a game, but it's on a whole different level. There's a a personal aspect to the game. A lot more things are on the line than actually just a game and bowls and all this."

Lockett said he hasn't talked to Orgeron since he was dismissed one day after the Rebels' Egg Bowl loss at Mississippi State in November 2007.

"Great guy, but he just wasn't that head coach," Lockett said. "He was a great D-line coach but he wasn't that head coach. I haven't talked to him since then. I might get a chance to talk to him after the game Saturday, might not, but life goes on, you know?"

Before the Rebels could turn their attention to Tennessee, they had to get past the scrappy Lumberjacks from Flagstaff, Ariz. Quarterback Jevan Snead threw for two touchdown passes and ran for two additional scores to pace the Rebels' offense, one handicapped by the one-game suspension of both offensive tackles and the absence of Dexter McCluster.

Snead's 3-yard touchdown run with 5:46 left in the second quarter gave Ole Miss a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Snead's 1-yard dive into the end zone with 2:46 left before halftime extended the Rebels' advantage to 28-14. Then Snead directed a 10-play, 42-yard drive that ended with Joshua Shene's 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half, sending Ole Miss to the locker room with a 31-14 lead.

"Everybody decided we were going to put on the hard hats and work," Ole Miss running back Bolden said. "

Snead and Shay Hodge connected on a 65-yard touchdown pass midway through the third period to expand the gap to 38-14.

"Shay's done an outstanding job for us," Nutt said. "He's really our go-to guy. He's our guy that we rely on for big plays. He can catch the possession ball and tonight you saw the speed. He can catch the deep ball like the one you saw tonight that Jevan laid in perfectly."

Ole Miss scored first. Five plays after Marcus Tillman intercepted Michael Herrick's first pass of the game and returned it four yards to the Lumberjacks' 15-yard line, Snead and Hodge connected on a 6-yard touchdown pass.

Northern Arizona answered with an 11-play scoring drive that began late in the first quarter and ended on Henderson's 5-yard touchdown run with 12:19 to play in the second quarter. Ole Miss regained the lead less than two minutes later when Bolden broke free for a 45-yard touchdown run.

"We didn't do what we wanted to do," Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett said. "We kind of came out, I wouldn't say sluggish, but we kind of played down to our opponent, which we stressed all week. We still came out and did it anyway."

Snead completed 16 of 29 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Hodge was his leading receiver, catching seven passes for a career-high 169 yards. Bolden led the Rebels' rushing attack with 85 yards on 10 carries.

Former Ole Miss quarterback Michael Herrick, now in his second season as Northern Arizona's starter, had some impressive moments for the Lumberjacks against his former team. Herrick was 20-for-31 passing for 233 yards.


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