Dart rallies No. 20 Ole Miss past No. 24 Tulane, 37-20
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jaxson Dart accounted for 308 yards and passed for two touchdowns and No. 20 Mississippi pulled away to beat 24th-ranked Tulane 37-20 on Saturday as injured Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt watched from the sideline.
Caden Davis kicked a career-long 56-yard field goal to give Ole Miss (2-0) a 10-point lead with 1:53 left, and defensive end Jared Ivey picked up a fumble caused by Khari Coleman’s sack and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
“We didn’t flinch. We didn’t hesitate. We knew that we were going to figure it out,” Dart said. “Obviously, we expected to win. Morale moving forward is definitely high because we know if we have a bad quarter or a bad drive, we’re going to be able to rebound.”
Dart passed for passed for 267 yards, despite being without top receiver Tre Harris for much of the game. He rushed for 41.
“He really battled,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said about his quarterback. “He didn’t play perfect by any means but he played really tough.”
After Tulane coach Willie Fritz said Tuesday that Pratt was “fine,” the coach elected to start backup Kai Horton. Pratt, who had taken a big hit at the end of a 37-17 victory over South Alabama the previous weekend was wearing shorts with a protective sleeve on his left knee when he appeared on the sideline.
“It looked promising early in the week, but it didn’t continue that way,” Fritz said about Pratt’s condition. “I’m not going to play anybody if I think they can hurt themselves further. He just isn’t quite ready. He wanted to play. That was my decision.”
Still, Tulane (1-1) took a 10-point lead in the first half. And after falling behind early in the fourth, the Green Wave was on the edge of tying field goal range. But Fritz elected to run an offensive play on fourth and 2 from the 31 and Horton was forced out of bounds just short.
On the next play, Dart found Dayton Wade for a 43-yard catch as the receiver twisted in the air and landed hard on his back. That set up Dart’s 21-yard, fourth-down scoring pass to Michael Trigg to make it 27-17 with 4:28 left.
Horton, who’d come off the bench to lead an overtime victory at Houston last season, looked ready to step in. He connected with Lawrence Keys for a 57-yard completion that set up Makhi Hughes’ short TD run to tie the game at 7 on Tulane’s opening series.
Horton’s accurate throw to Jha’Quan Jackson 41 yards down field went for a touchdown that gave the Wave a 17-7 lead.
Mississippi’s staff had assumed Pratt would play “all the way up until we got here and saw them warming up,” Kiffin said. “We didn’t really play much different — maybe a little more aggressive with more pressure on an inexperienced guy. But he made a couple plays early and got himself some confidence.”
Ole Miss rallied to score the next 20 points.
The Rebels parlayed a fourth-down stop on their own 35 into a 65-yard touchdown drive, capped by Quinshon Judkins’ tackle-slipping 9-yard run, tying it at 17 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
After the teams traded interceptions by Tulane’s Lance Robinson and Mississippi’s Deantre Prince late in the third quarter, the Rebels drove for Davis’ 27-yard field goal and a 20-17 lead.
Mississippi: Dart’s first TD pass was a 31-yard strike to Harris to cap a three-play opening drive that gave the Rebels a quick 7-0 lead. The rest of the afternoon wouldn’t be as easy, but Ole Miss still posted a convincing outcome by outscoring its host 27-3 in the second half. Kiffin said he does not expect Harris’ injury to keep him out for long.
“It was ugly,” Kiffin said. “But it wasn’t like we kicked a field goal with 1 second left or they missed one to win.”
Tulane: The ability to play close with a Top 20 team from the SEC is a positive sign for the Green Wave, which has yet to play a league game as the defending American Athletic Conference champions.
“That’s a really good team that played really hard and obviously gave us a lot of challenges today, just like they’ve given a lot of people,” Kiffin said about Tulane. “They’re very tough up front and their front seven on defense gave us a lot of problems.”
Ole Miss should move up in the AP Poll after a solid road victory over another ranked team. Tulane is in danger of dropping out of the Top 25 for the first time since late last season.
Mississippi: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Tulane: Visits Southern Mississippi on Saturday, Sept. 16.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
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