OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Although consistency for four quarters continues to be a top priority for No. 16 Mississippi, the Rebels relied on a 28-point outburst in the second quarter to cruise to a win against Tulsa on Saturday.
Jaxson Dart and Quinshon Judkins accounted for four touchdowns in the big quarter as Mississippi rallied from an early deficit to beat Tulsa 35-27.
“We harp on consistency and we really executed at a high level in the second quarter,” said quarterback Jaxson Dart, a Southern California transfer, efficiently directing consecutive touchdown drives of 75, 64, 93 and 46 yards to build a 35-14 cushion.
Ole Miss (4-0) trailed for the first time this season, 14-7 before the Dart threw 31-yard touchdown passes to Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo, and Judkins had scoring runs of 1 and 4 yards.
The lack of consistency was not lost on Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, who preferred to focus on the positive outcome, despite a scoreless second half and a late Tulsa charge.
“The bottom line is we are 4-0 and that’s the best you can be,” Kiffin said. “It’s a lot better than being 2-2 which is what a lot of people around the country are right now.”
Dart finished 13 of 24 passing with 154 yards, adding 116 yards rushing on 13 carries. The Rebels had 462 yards of total offense, including 308 yards on 51 carries — highlighted by 140 yards rushing on 27 carries by Judkins.
“We’re a talented team but we’ve got to make the next step in consistency because in the second half, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Dart said.
Tulsa (2-2) was led by Davis Brin, throwing for a 20-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Epps and adding a 1-yard touchdown run. Brin was 7 of 13 passing for 112 yards before exiting with an injury in the second quarter. However, he remained on the sideline in uniform in the second half.
“We had adversity and fought through it,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win it late.”
Braylon Braxton replaced Brin to finish 9 of 22 passing for 83 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Epps to pull Tulsa to 35-27 in the fourth quarter. The Golden Hurricane, despite 457 yards of total offense, did not cross midfield on their final three possessions.
“The defense stopped them on the last few drives and that was big,” Kiffin said. “But we got shut out in the second half on offense and it’s clear we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Mississippi: All September goals have been accomplished. The No. 16 Rebels are 4-0, seamlessly meshed 30-plus new players, a different lineup of assistant coaches and coordinators along with establishing a starting quarterback. The competition ratchets up significantly, but Ole Miss is in the best possible position heading into the start of SEC play.
Tulsa: Before Brin was sidelined with a lower body injury, he raced 87 and 75 yards in the opening 12 minutes to take a 14-7 lead. The defense has given up 127 points in four games, but the offense has enough firepower, 5 of 5 in the red zone, to make a serious challenge for the American Conference title.
“I thought we played a full 60-minute game,” Montgomery said. “I’m really proud of our players and our running game was better, but we’ve still got room to grow.”
RUSHING NUMBERS POP
Ole Miss had a 100-yard rusher for the fourth consecutive game to open the season for the first time in this century. Zach Evans, Judkins and Dart have taken turns breaking the barrier in the four-game start. The Rebels lead the SEC in rushing yardage with 1,123 yards. Judkins, a true freshman, is the team leader with 429 yards while Evans has 365.
“It solves a lot of problems when you can do that,” Dart said. “We’ve got talented running backs and it probably doesn’t need to be me (running the ball). I need to be a little smarter about not taking those hits.”
The win allows the No. 16 Rebels to at least maintain the pace in the AP Top 25 poll. Ole Miss is sixth of the eight SEC ranked teams, making a major jump unlikely.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane host defending AAC champion Cincinnati in the conference opener for both teams.
Mississippi: The No. 16 Rebels host No. 8 Kentucky in a high-stakes SEC match of ranked teams.