Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer 734d

Memphis bursts onto national scene with upset of No. 13 Ole Miss



Twenty seconds into the game, on the second play from scrimmage, Ole Miss dialed up a double-pass. Laquon Treadwell caught the backward toss from Chad Kelly near the sideline, turned and threw a strike to Quincy Adeboyejo, who ran the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown.

But the Rebs would let off the gas after jumping out to a quick two-score lead and Memphis wouldn’t take no for an answer at home, scoring 31 unanswered points to pull off the upset, winning by the final score of 37-24.

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch stated his case as a potential early-round pick in the NFL draft, he and the offense owned third down, and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made a number of questionable decisions that led to the 13th-ranked Rebs' second loss the season and the continuation of the Tigers' perfect season.

The nonconference win rolled back the record books as Memphis beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 1996. Conversely, it was the first loss against an unranked nonconference opponent for Ole Miss since 1976.

What the win means for Memphis: These aren’t your granddaddy’s Memphis Tigers. The program that lost 21 of its last 24 games prior to Justin Fuente’s arrival is gone. Fuente, who came from TCU where he was co-offensive coordinator, has the Tigers not only competing for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference, but a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game. Undefeated, soon-to-be ranked and sporting one of the best quarterback prospects in the country, Memphis showed against Ole Miss that it’s the real deal. The one concern has to be the defense, which failed to put together a complete effort against the Rebs, could be burned come Nov. 14 at Houston, which has put together an electric offense under first-year coach Tom Herman.

What the loss means for Ole Miss: A loss at Florida two weeks ago wasn’t the nail in the coffin of Ole Miss’ playoff hopes -- losing at Memphis was. Even though Memphis is an undefeated and well-respected program, the Rebs aren’t going to get back into the top four with those two losses. But what complicates things for the SEC is that Ole Miss is still a contender for the conference championship. With only one loss in league play and a win at Alabama giving them a tiebreaker, the Rebs are now the biggest wild card in the SEC. If they find a way to win out, they’ll be the reason the conference is shut out of the playoff.

Uh, what? The sight of 290-pound defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche running the football and catching passes on offense has been fun for Ole Miss fans, but it stopped being funny the moment he suffered a head injury after taking a handoff early in the second quarter. Now Freeze is left to answer questions about why he ever bothered risking the health of his potential first-round pick on offense. Ole Miss never needed him on that side of the ball, but defense is another story. He has been a mainstay in the middle of the line, eating up blocks, disrupting the run and rushing the passer.

Stat of the game: If you were wondering what kind of impact Nkemdiche has on the Ole Miss defense, just look at what happened in his absence. It was nothing short of a collapse as Memphis proceeded to score 24 unanswered points. The running game got going as Sam Craft scored a 4-yard touchdown and the passing game took off as well as Lynch showed the world why he’s a top prospect in the draft, throwing the ball all over the field, including a 31-yard dart into the end zone to Mose Frazier to push the Tigers’ lead to 17 in the third quarter. But the most startling evidence of Memphis' dominance on offense was third down, where the Tigers converted on 12 of 20 opportunities.

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