No. 18 Ole Miss sloppy in opener but beats Boise
ATLANTA (AP) — Bo Wallace wants to close his college career in style.
He'd rather forget the way his final season started out.
The Mississippi senior was picked off three times in the first half, and the No. 18 Rebels struggled to a 7-6 lead heading to the fourth quarter against Boise State. But Wallace tossed three of his four touchdown passes in the final period — on consecutive throws, no less — and Ole Miss pulled away for a sloppy 35-13 victory Thursday night.
"Just decent," Wallace said, assessing his 387-yard performance. "I have things to work on. Luckily, we were able to bounce back in the second half."
The Rebels (1-0) got the victory before a sparse crowd in the first of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games at the Georgia Dome this week. But it was hardly the sort of dominant showing they were hoping for entering the season with their highest ranking since 2009.
"It was awful hard to watch for 2 1/2 quarters," coach Hugh Freeze said. "Then we got in a decent rhythm the last part of the game."
Boise State (0-1) lost in the debut of coach Bryan Harsin, who took over after Chris Petersen bolted for Washington. The Broncos no longer resemble the team that used to beat the big boys with such regularity.
"I'm not going to sit here and made excuses for not going out there and winning the ballgame," Harsin said. "We've got to find ways to get better."
Cody Core, who won a starting job during preseason practice, hauled in a pair of TDs for Ole Miss: a 30-yarder in the final minute of the first quarter, then a 76-yarder midway through the fourth after grabbing a short pass on a slant route and breaking free down the middle of the field.
Also in the final period, Wallace went to Laquon Treadwell for a 14-yard TD and hooked up with Quincy Adeboyejo on a 31-yard scoring play.
That was more than enough against Boise State, which was coming off its worst season since 1998 (8-5) and seems to have lost its BCS-busting swagger. Grant Hedrick was picked off four times. The Broncos had first-and-goal at the Ole Miss 1 in the second quarter, ran three straight plays that lost a total of 2 yards, and settled for a field goal.
"We've got to punch it in," Harsin said. "We were not good enough tonight to get that done."
Frankly, neither team looked as if it was ready for the season. Wallace's three interceptions before halftime were matched by Hedrick, and both quarterbacks had one picked off in the end zone to ruin good scoring chances.
Freeze was baffled by a couple of Wallace's interceptions, saying the senior threw toward receivers who weren't even supposed to be part of the play.
"He wants to do so well and have a great year," Freeze said. "Obviously, he didn't play his best. But he settled down in the second half and played pretty good."
The poor play went beyond a bunch of errant throws.
Ole Miss was flagged for moving too soon on its first two attempts at getting off an offensive snap — and wound up being called for a staggering seven false-start penalties in the first half. The Rebels couldn't blame the crowd for being too noisy, either. The upper deck at the Georgia Dome wasn't even used for a turnout announced at 32,823.
Boise State was even worse. Harsin, a former Broncos quarterback and offensive coordinator under Petersen during the glory days, watched his offense manage only a pair of field goals before a meaningless touchdown in the closing minutes.
Hedrick threw his fourth interception early in the fourth quarter, which pretty much finished off Boise State. Two plays later, Wallace found Adeboyejo open at the 10, and he easily broke away from a couple of would-be tacklers who did little more than stick out their arms.
Wallace finished 25 of 36 for 387 yards. Treadwell hauled in seven passes for 105 yards, while Core had 110 yards on four receptions.
Hedrick was 36 of 46 for 264 yards.
"We had opportunities, but we just didn't capitalize on some plays," Hedrick said. "That's what stings."
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