OXFORD, Miss. - BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help Mississippi beat Memphis 28-25 on Sunday in the season opener.
Dexter McCluster had 268 all-purpose yards in his debut and scored a touchdown. The freshman caught six passes for 86 yards, ran four times for 60 yards and returned five kickoffs for 122 yards.
The performance was fourth on the team's all-time single game all-purpose yardage list. Saints running back Deuce McAllister holds the record with 317 yards.
Brent Schaeffer connected on just 7-of-16 passes for 97 yards, but he didn't turn the ball over and managed the game well for the Rebels, who twice scored on fourth-and-1.
He also put the game out of reach with an 8-yard scoring run with 7:07 left in the fourth. He set up the game-clinching touchdown with first down passes of 11 yards to fullback Jason Cook and 13 yards to McCluster.
Schaeffer picked up a key first down with a 5-yard scramble with 1:48 remaining in the game and Memphis threatening 28-25.
Memphis kept the game tight most of the way after jumping out to a 7-0 lead on its first drive. Ole Miss went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Memphis 41 on its first drive and failed.
Tigers quarterback Martin Hankins drove the team downfield quickly, then resorted to trickery on third-and-3 from the 8.
Hankins handed the ball to wide receiver Dave Thomas on what appeared to be an end around. But Thomas pulled up short and tossed the ball over the advancing defense to Carlos Singleton in the back of the end zone with 6:59 remaining in the first quarter.
The Rebels answered on the first play of the second quarter with a tricky formation on fourth-and-1 from the 31. McCluster lined up in the backfield next to Schaeffer, who was under center. Schaeffer handed the ball to McCluster, who slipped around the left side and scored untouched.
McCluster helped set up the score with an 8-yard pass reception and a 12-yard end around on the drive.
The Rebels jumped to a 14-7 lead with heavy lifting from Green-Ellis, who scored from 1 yard out with 6:10 left in the half. He set up his own touchdown, running the ball for 31, 6 and 4 yards on the three plays before the score.
But Memphis tied the score 14-14 on its next drive when Hankins hit Ryan Scott as he ran a simple fly pattern down the right sideline. He was left wide open by the Ole Miss defense and scored from 49 yards out with 4:29 left in the half.
Green-Ellis began to pick up steam and batter the Tigers defense with his 215-pound frame in the third quarter. He rushed for 22 yards on the Rebels' third scoring drive and capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal with 5:40 remaining in the third.