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OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi's offense made three trips to the red zone on Saturday night.
They resulted in a grand total of three points.
A lot of other things happened in the 24th-ranked Rebels' 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri, but for coach Hugh Freeze, that was pretty much the only statistic that mattered.
"It's impossible to beat a top 10 team when you get in the red zone and don't score touchdowns or points," Freeze said. "... If you don't score some points in the red zone against that team you aren't going to win."
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4). Bo Wallace threw for 244 yards and an interception, but was battling an illness for much of the game and struggled during the second half.
Donte Moncrief caught six passes for 115 yards, but dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Missouri's Henry Josey rushed for two touchdowns and Marcus Murphy added another as the Tigers racked up 485 total yards, including 260 on the ground.
"This one is going to hurt a little bit because I know what we are capable of," Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt said. "Not taking anything away from them, but we did not play to the best of our potential."
The Tigers strolled into a hostile environment at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and never flinched, jumping out to a 17-3 lead by halftime for the relatively easy victory.
Now the big one awaits for the Tigers (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference). The Tigers host Texas A&M next weekend, with a win clinching the SEC's East Division title.
James Franklin completed 12 of 19 passes for 142 yards and an interception in his first start since a shoulder injury caused him to miss four games.
"I thought he did an outstanding job," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "The guy hadn't played in six weeks and there was a lot of pressure on him to play well."
It's the fourth 10-win season for Missouri in the past seven years and was Pinkel's 100th win with the Tigers.
The Tigers used a deep running back rotation to slowly wear down the Ole Miss defense. Josey had most of the big plays, but Russell Hansbrough and Murphy combined for 99 more yards, helping Missouri shorten the game in the second half with time-consuming drives.
Missouri jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter after a blistering eight-play, 72-yard drive that took less than three minutes. Andrew Baggett added a 33-yard field goal and Murphy scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter as the Tigers took a 17-3 halftime lead.
"We're just a focused team," Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson said. "The coaches did a good job keeping us focused. We had a great game plan. We knew what we had to do."
Franklin — making his first start since suffering a shoulder injury Oct. 12 — completed 7 of 7 passes for 89 yards in the first half.
The Ole Miss offense had a few opportunities to match Missouri, but kept blowing opportunities in the red zone. The litany of errors included two false start penalties, one blocked field goal attempt and several unsuccessful running plays.
But the Rebels regrouped in the third quarter, pulling within 17-10 on the opening drive of the second half on I'Tavius Mathers' 45-yard run. The sophomore bounced off a few would-be tacklers and then dashed down the left sideline, outrunning a pair of Mizzou defenders into the end zone.
The momentum was short lived. Missouri responded with an 86-yard touchdown drive that ended on Josey's second touchdown of the night and the Tigers had a 24-10 lead.
Wallace completed 20 of 28 passes for 172 yards and an interception in the first half, but didn't start the second half because he was sick. Wallace and backup Barry Brunetti split snaps in the second half, but neither had much success.
Moncrief had a productive night, but his dropped pass in the end zone was a microcosm of the Rebels' frustrating night.
Ole Miss could have cut Missouri's lead to 24-17 with eight minutes remaining, but instead turned the ball over on downs one play later and Missouri went on to its third straight victory.
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