ATLANTA — For much of the night, it was tough to watch. Mississippi hardly looked like the 18th-ranked team in the country. Boise State in no way resembled the program that used to beat the big boys with such regularity.
The Rebels finally came around in the fourth quarter, pulling away to beat Boise State 35-13 in a sloppy season opener Thursday.
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Shaking off three first-half interceptions, Bo Wallace threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns — three of the scores coming on consecutive throws in the fourth quarter.
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 convincing performance they were hoping for entering the season with their highest ranking since 2009.
Ole Miss led only 7-6 entering the fourth quarter before finishing off Boise State (0-1), ruining the debut of new Broncos coach Bryan Harsin.
"It was awful hard to watch for 2 1/2 quarters," Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. "Then we got in a decent rhythm the last part of the game, found a way to score enough points to win."
Cody Core, who won a starting job during preseason practice, hauled in a pair of TDs: 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 go back and find a way to get it in," Harsin said. "We worked to get it all the way down there. We've got to punch it in. We were not good enough tonight to get that done."
More telling, when still in the game and facing fourth-and-3 at the Rebels 40, Boise State took a delay of game and punted the ball away.
"You're not going to win too many games throwing four picks," Hedrick said. "We had opportunities, but we just didn't capitalize on some plays. That's what stings."
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, ruining 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.
"I don't know if he was pressing too hard," the coach said. "He wants to do so well and have a great year. ... 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.
"We had some noise issues that I didn't prepare my team for," Freeze said, apparently unaware that most of those who did turn out were rooting for Ole Miss.
Boise State was even worse, hardly looking like the powerhouse that former coach Chris Petersen built before bolting for Washington after last season. 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.