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Ole Miss runs over New Mexico State

OXFORD (AP) — Ole Miss football head coach Matt Luke can’t help but smile when he discusses the development and performance of his freshman class, especially at the skill positions.

Saturday’s game left him beaming.

Ole Miss freshmen Snoop Conner, Jerrion Ealy and quarterback John Rhys Plumlee combined to rush for five touchdowns and more than 350 yards Saturday as the Rebels defeated New Mexico State 41-3.

“Plumlee made plays consistently and managed the game well,” Luke said. “He’s still got some plays he can make, but it’s fun to see our freshman running backs making plays for us.”

Plumlee directed scoring drives on four of the first five possessions as the Rebels (4-6) built an insurmountable 24-3 halftime lead. Plumlee rushed for 177 yards on 12 carries, with scoring runs of 2 and 18 yards. He also completed 11 of 17 passes for 124 yards in a dominating performance that ended in the third quarter.

“I was fortunate to break the line of scrimmage a few times,” Plumlee said. “At the next level, there aren’t as many guys you have to outrun, or make miss, or bob and weave to get free.”

Conner rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries, featuring a stylish 30-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 1-yard touchdown run in the third. Ealy finished with 71 yards on 14 carries, including a touchdown run of 5 yards. The Rebels finished with 606 yards in total offense, including 447 on the ground.

“It was a pretty good game for me, but there are still some plays out there I missed and can make,” Conner said. “Running the ball is what we do. But, we’ve got to keep working and making it better.”

New Mexico State (0-9) avoided the shutout on a 34-yard field goal by Dylan Brown in the second quarter. Josh Adkins was 25-of-35 passing for 127 yards, but could manage only two completions longer than 10 yards. Matthew Young had a game-high 16 tackles.

“We knew coming in that Ole Miss was really impressive on defense,” New Mexico State Doug Martin said. “We played Alabama in the second game of the year and in my opinion, you could switch the jerseys and there’s no difference.”

The Aggies weren’t expected to win an SEC road game, but the margin of defeat was discouraging. Of the three remaining games, only the visiting UTEP Miners (1-7) have a losing record and provides the best opportunity for New Mexico State to snap an 11-game losing streak.

“I thought we had some guys play well,” Martin said. “Linebacker Rashie Hodge (seven tackles, one fumble recovery, one pass broken up) has gotten better each week.”

Ole Miss kept alive its hopes of reaching a bowl game, but has an uphill climb with two games remaining. The season-ending Egg Bowl against Mississippi State appears winnable, but they’ll have a monumental challenge next week when No. 1 LSU (9-0) comes to Oxford.

“Those are our two biggest rivals and both are huge games,” Luke said. “But we can’t worry about them, we have to focus on us, get better and line up and play.”