Ole Miss tops Memphis to give Nutt win in debut

OXFORD, Miss. -- Jevan Snead hit Shay Hodge with touchdown passes of 64 and 15 yards and Mississippi beat Memphis 41-24 Saturday night in Houston Nutt 's debut as Rebels coach.

With all eyes on Snead, making his first start, and Nutt, it was Dexter McCluster who provided the spark with 125 total yards and a touchdown run out of Ole Miss' new Wild Rebel formation.

Despite Snead's long touchdown to Hodge in the first quarter, the Rebels struggled early. McCluster, working out of the shotgun in the same "Wildcat" role played by Darren McFadden under Nutt the last two seasons at Arkansas, got Ole Miss rolling with a 32-yard run around the right end for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.

It was the first time Ole Miss scored 40 points against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since a 43-40 win over South Carolina on Nov. 1, 2003.

The Wild Rebel had a lot to do with the point total. Ole Miss rolled up 148 yards on 10 plays out of the formation and capped off the scoring with a 10-yard run from freshman tailback Brandon Bolden. He debuted with 61 of his 76 yards rushing coming in the new formation and hit Snead with a 37-yard pass out of the shotgun.

McCluster finished with 64 yards rushing -- 50 out of the Wild Rebel -- and four catches for 61 yards receiving.

Nutt was hired last November to restore fan enthusiasm and field a team that was more prepared on game day after 10 wins in three seasons under Ed Orgeron. With 56,127 fans in the stands and players making few mistakes, about the only setback for Nutt was the overeager fan who surprised him with a chestbump as the team made its way through The Grove a few hours before kickoff.

Snead's debut was solid, though not particularly sharp as he completed 10 of 22 passes for 185 yards. He made few mistakes, but overthrew several receivers in his first action since 2006 when he played in a handful of games for Texas before sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules.

And Nutt appears to have made a difference for the Southeastern Conference's last-place defense. The Rebels intercepted two passes, setting up two field goals by Joshua Shene, and held Memphis in check except for a late 43-yard touchdown pass from Will Hudgens to Maurice Jones and a 1-yard scoring dive by Hudgens once the game was out of hand.

Hudgens and starter Arkelon Hall struggled. Hall finished with 159 yards passing before leaving due to injury and Hudgens passed for 102 yards. Each threw an interception.