Rebels run over, through Georgia Tech

Published 9:07 pm Saturday, September 17, 2022

ATLANTA (AP) — For those who think Lane Kiffin prefers to throw the ball all over the field, check out what No. 20 Ole Miss did on Saturday.

With his quarterback position still in a bit of flux, Kiffin’s team put quite the beatdown on Georgia Tech by running right over them.

Zach Evans and Quinshon Judkins led a 316-yard pummeling on the ground that powered Ole Miss to a 42-0 victory, turning up the heat even more on embattled Yellow Jackets coach Geoff Collins.

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“We wanted to come in and suck the life out of them,” Evans said.

Mission accomplished.

Jaxson Dart returned as the starting quarterback after Luke Altmyer got the nod the previous week. It really didn’t matter who was taking the snaps. Not the way Ole Miss (3-0) was running the ball out of its fast-paced system.

“Everybody thinks you throw the ball in this system,” Kiffin said. “You really don’t. You run the ball a lot in this system when you really have it going.”

The Rebels had it going from the very first possession. On third-and-7 from the Georgia Tech 17, Judkins ran for the first down. The freshman then rumbled to the end zone on third-and-goal from the 7.

Ole Miss ran for all six of its touchdowns, piling up 31 first downs and averaging 5.1 yards on a staggering 62 carries. Evans had scoring runs of 3 and 26 yards while rushing for 134 yards. Judkins gained 98 yards and also scored twice.

Ulysses Bentley added two more TD runs as the Rebels poured it on the third quarter, doubling their 21-0 halftime lead. It’s the first time three Rebels scored at least two rushing touchdowns since a 1979 game against Vanderbilt.

The Ole Miss defense wasn’t too shabby, either. The Rebels held Georgia Tech to 214 yards of total offense while sacking Jeff Sims seven times. They have allowed just 13 points on the season, albeit against less-than-stellar opposition. A home game against Tulsa closes out the non-conference schedule next weekend.

“That’s the goal of our defense,” said end Cedric Johnson, who had a sack and a blocked punt. “Play violent on every play.”

Dart completed 10 of 16 passes for 207 yards with an interception, doing some of his best work on the ground. He rushed for 40 yards and pretty much delivered the exclamation point to this mauling by lowering his shoulder to send safety Jaylon King flying at the end of a run late in the third.

Georgia Tech (1-2) surrendered another blocked punt — its third of the young season — to set up a touchdown that pushed Ole Miss to a 14-0 lead with the game barely 5 minutes old.

That sparked the Rebels to their first road shutout since 2012 and first of a Power Five school since a 45-0 victory over Mississippi State in 2008.

Georgia Tech did nothing to relieve the pressure on Collins, who increasingly looks to be winding down his tenure in Atlanta.

“That was hard,” Collins said. “That was not up to the standard of Georgia Tech football. That completely falls on me as the head football coach.

“I thought we were prepared, I thought we had a good plan, I thought we were ready to handle any adversity that showed. But I don’t know if there’s any positives to take out of that — offensively, defensively or special teams.”

Dart, a transfer from Southern California, started for the second time. Altmyer got the nod last week, only to be forced out of the game with an upper-body injury.

The injury wasn’t serious, but Dart got all the significant snaps in this one. Altmyer finally came on in the fourth quarter to handle garbage time.

Kiffin declined to comment on the quarterback depth chart going forward, but it certainly appears Dart has reclaimed the top spot.

“We just kind of went with him,” the coach said. “He practiced really well. He had a really good week, a much better week than the previous one.”

Kiffin especially liked the way Dart bounced back after his one big mistake, an interception late in the first half when Ole Miss was poised to add to its lead.

Dart led three straight touchdown drives in the third quarter, completing 6 of 7 passes for 115 yards. Clearly, his comfort level in a new system is growing with each game.

“The more I run it,” Dart said, “the more I can play without hesitation.”