Snead, Rebels shake slow start to put down Tigers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jevan Snead sure knows how to finish.

The Mississippi quarterback recovered from an awful start to throw two late touchdowns and Dexter McCluster scored twice to lead the No. 8 Rebels to a 45-14 win over Memphis on Sunday. Snead hit 4 of 5 passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, breaking open a close game.

"Another thing you have to love about Jevan is that when things don't go just right, he doesn't put his head down," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "You don't have to be concerned about that. He's a winner, and the guy really came back and played well."

Those who have been watching Snead at Ole Miss will start to notice a trend. Snead got off to a slow start last season before rallying the Rebels to six straight wins. He did just the same in microcosm in the team's seventh consecutive victory.

Snead was the focus of preseason hype and mentioned as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. But when the spotlight first hit him in 2009, he wilted. He completed just 8 of 17 passes for 102 yards with two interceptions through three quarters, missing badly at times.

The offense struggled because of it and was especially dysfunctional in the first half when the team turned the ball over three times, punted three others and gained 144 yards.

It took a big play by Fon Ingram to wipe away those troubles.

It looked like Memphis might take the lead late in the second quarter. The Tigers trailed 10-7 and appeared to have an opportunity to take the lead with a solid drive when Ingram stepped in front of Arkelon Hall's pass and returned it 38 yards for a 17-7 halftime lead.

"It was just being in the right place at the right time," Ingram said. "He threw it right to me, and when I caught it I knew it was six."

That gave Ole Miss confidence going into the second half and Snead completed his personal comeback with a couple of rapid-fire touchdowns of 18 yards to Markeith Summers and 17 yards to McCluster in the fourth.

His counterpart had a much more difficult time in the face of pressure from Ole Miss' defensive line.

Hall completed 15 of 30 passes with two interceptions for 110 yards. He had 37 yards in the first half and limited the Tigers' effectiveness with several poor passes well off the mark.

The Tigers had 284 total yards, three turnovers and were 0 for 2 on fourth-down conversions and 4 for 16 on third down.

"You've got to give our defense a lot of credit," Snead said.

The defense's early stand was repaid as the offense gained strength. Brandon Bolden rushed for 71 yards on nine carries, scored one touchdown and set up McCluster's 1-yard plunge in the third quarter with a 28-yard run.

McCluster had 50 yards rushing as both the Wild Rebel quarterback and an I-formation tailback and 65 yards receiving, too. Enrique Davis finished off the game with a 29-yard scoring run.

Memphis coach Tommy West stocked up on transfers the last two years in an attempt to improve the talent on his roster and it appeared to work for a while, especially on defense and in the running game. Curtis Steele had 90 yards and two touchdowns, including one that cut it to 24-14. Wisconsin transfer Lance Smith added 63 yards rushing.

The team couldn't overcome the performance by Hall, though, and West acknowledged it might be time to look more closely at the position.

"I don't want to create a quarterback deal, but then again we have to play better than we did today," West said. "I think we all know that. That is not a secret to anyone that watched the game. We can't continue to make errors and give up touchdowns."