By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Nick Starkel threw for 272 yards and a touchdown to lead Texas A&M past Mississippi 31-24 on Saturday night.
Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) trailed 24-21 at halftime, but took a 28-24 lead in the third quarter on a pick-six by Derrick Tucker, who snared a Jordan Ta’amu pass and ran it back 19 yards for the touchdown.
The Aggies never trailed again, using a stellar defense to hold the Rebels scoreless in the second half.
“We weren’t perfect,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “But our guys played really hard. I’m happy for them.”
Texas A&M’s Damion Ratley caught five passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Starkel completed 19 of 32 passes and also ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) couldn’t generate any offense after a promising first half. Jordan Wilkins led the Rebels with 147 yards rushing, including a 64-yard touchdown run. Ta’amu completed 19 of 34 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Ole Miss managed just 66 total yards in the second half.
“The defense did a really nice job in the second half of creating more negative yardage plays,” Sumlin said. “Forced the issue a little bit with their quarterback and that translated into them not putting any points on the scoreboard in the second half.”
The two teams traded touchdowns throughout the first half until the final minute, when Gary Wunderlich kicked a 28-yard field goal to give Ole Miss a 24-21 lead going into the break. But the second half was a different story for the Rebels.
“We couldn’t get any rhythm,” Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke said. “We struggled to protect to our passer. Too many penalties. We just didn’t get it done in the second half.”
Texas A&M: It’s a solid road win for the Aggies. The offense is much more balanced with Starkel at quarterback and the defense was terrific in the second half. Texas A&M should provide a tough test for LSU in the regular-season finale next weekend.
Ole Miss: The Rebels had a frustrating second half after scoring 24 points before halftime. Ta’amu had his worst game as a starter and was constantly bothered by Texas A&M defensive pressure. A.J. Brown caught seven passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, but also had three drops that hurt the Rebels.
Texas A&M travels to face LSU on Saturday.
Ole Miss travels to face rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thursday.
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