OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Matt Corral threw for two touchdowns and the Mississippi defense made a pair of game-saving stops on downs in the final six minutes as the Rebels defeated Southeastern Louisiana 40-29.
Corral finished 21 of 30 for 239 yards and directed a pair of fourth quarter field goal drives that preserved the Ole Miss (2-1) win over the FCS Lions (1-1). Jerrion Ealy added two touchdowns, a 94-yard kickoff return and a 30-yard run, to finish with 273 all-purpose yards.
"I told these guys in the locker room that nothing in life is easy. Nothing good comes easy," Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. "Give Southeastern Louisiana credit. They did a heck of a job and I'm glad we got a win that we can build from. But, we've got to clean things up for sure."
Southeastern Louisiana, trailing 34-29, drove inside the 50-yard line twice in the final period before the drives ended. Virgil Kelly threw for 309 passing 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 from the Lions 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.
Kelly 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.
Southeastern Louisiana: A loss to an SEC team did nothing to hurt the reputation of a solid FCS program from a strong conference, the Southland. The Lions rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter and were more than competitive throughout. Devonte Williams finished with 206 all-purpose yards, but was limited in the final period.
"I'm really proud of how we didn't blink when we went down by 17 points," Scelfo said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win in the final quarter, which is all we can ask for."
Ole Miss: The consistency of Phillips was complemented by continued improvement of Corral and the big-play versatility of true freshman Ealy. Defensively, the Rebels struggled, but made enough big plays - three interceptions, a fumble recovery and two late stops on fourth down - and Luke Logan added fourth-quarter field goals of 22 and 32 yards to seal it.
"I was proud of those fourth quarter drives," Luke said. "We put them in a two score situation and that was enough to win."
Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions visit Lamar in a Southland Conference game on Saturday.
Ole Miss: The Rebels continue non-conference play by hosting undefeated California on Saturday.