Oxford, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - Henry Josey ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 8 Missouri move one win away from an SEC East title with a 24-10 decision over 24th-ranked Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
James Franklin, back from a three-game absence caused by a shoulder injury, threw for 142 yards with an interception on a 12-of-19 completion rate, but the Tigers' ground game and defense played the biggest roles in Missouri's third triumph over a ranked conference opponent this season.
Missouri (10-1, 6-1 SEC) rushed for 260 yards, with Marcus Murphy adding 67 and a touchdown on 16 carries, and thwarted a number of scoring chances by the inefficient Rebels throughout the contest.
The Tigers will clinch a spot opposite the Alabama/Auburn winner in the SEC Championship Game if they defeat visiting Texas A&M next Saturday. Should the Aggies prevail, South Carolina would claim the East by virtue of its earlier win over Missouri.
Bo Wallace went 26-of-42 for 244 yards with an interception for Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4), which had a three-game win streak halted. Donte Moncrief finished with 115 yards on six catches in the loss.
Franklin showed no signs of rust right from the start, hitting on his first three pass attempts while marching the Tigers down the field with a tone- setting opening drive. His 13-yard connection to Marcus Lucas on 3rd-and-5 extended the series while putting Missouri in the red zone, and Josey powered his way in from four yards out shortly afterward to send the Tigers in front just 2:45 in.
Ole Miss had a golden opportunity to tie it after having a 1st-and-goal from the Missouri one near the end of the first quarter, but a pair of penalties and two stuffed runs by the Tigers' defense forced Andrew Ritter to try a 23- yard field goal.
The kick was blocked, however, and the Rebels came away empty on a 19-play sequence that consumed nearly eight minutes off the game clock.
"Our focus increases when we get in the red zone," said Tigers linebacker Andrew Wilson. "All we need is a place to stand down there and we can hold them every time."
Maty Mauk, who filled in ably while Franklin was sidelined, came on to work the Tigers' fourth possession of the evening and delivered a deep strike to a wide-open Bud Sasser for a 60-yard gain, with the big play setting up Andrew Baggett's 33-yard field goal that extended the lead to 10-0 midway through the second quarter.
Ole Miss countered with a long pass of its own on the ensuing drive, a 41-yard hookup from Wallace to Moncrief that put the Rebels in position for Ritter's 30-yard field goal that restored the seven-point differential.
Franklin then went back to work and again was sharp, completing all three of his throws on a 7-play, 68-yard jaunt that was highlighted by a 27-yard catch by Lucas down to the Ole Miss three. Murphy crossed the goal line on the next snap to put Mizzou up by a 17-3 count with 1:37 to go in the half.
"I thought James did an outstanding job," said Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel. "The guy hadn't played in six weeks and had a lot of pressure on him to play well, because Maty had been playing well."
The Rebels came storming out of the break, however, needing just four plays on their initial possession of the second half to close the gap. Two plays after Jaylen Walton ripped off a 31-yard run, I'Tavius Mathers broke outside and found an opening down the left sideline en route to a 45-yard touchdown that pulled Ole Miss within 17-10.
However, Missouri responded with its longest -- and perhaps most critical -- offensive series of the night.
Franklin scrambled 11 yards for a first down on 3rd-and-7 before dropping in a pinpoint 32-yard pass to L'Damian Washington that brought the ball to the Mississippi 25. After another completion to Washington, Josey capped the momentum-changing 8-play, 85-yard trek with a 10-yard burst on a shotgun draw to make it a two-score game with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.
Missouri's defense then did its part, holding the Rebels to one first down on a pair of drives that each resulted in punts.
Ole Miss still made a late bid to get back in it, with Wallace firing a 34- yard strike to Moncrief deep in Mizzou territory with under 10 minutes remaining. Moncrief later failed to hold onto a would-be touchdown pass, however, and the Tigers ultimately stopped the Rebels on downs to take over at their own 13.
"It's impossible to beat a top-10 team when you get in the red zone and don't score touchdowns or points," said Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze. "We had the blocked field goal, then a drop and a bad call on [a] reverse. If you don't score some points in the red zone against that team, you aren't going to win."
Missouri was able to successfully chew up the final eight-plus minutes on the clock following the turnover on downs, aided by a key 13-yard run by Franklin in a 3rd-and-8 situation.