OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss got the breathing room it needed with a touchdown late in the first half, then smothered visiting Northwestern State afterwards while posting a 27-7 victory over the Demons Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels, coached by four-year Demons letterwinner Ed Orgeron (a defensive lineman at NSU from 1980-83), weathered a solid first-half offensive output by Northwestern (4-5, including three losses to teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences), which had 189 yards at halftime but only 72 afterwards. The teams swapped touchdown drives on their game-opening possessions. Ole Miss (3-7) moved ahead to stay 12:08 before halftime on a career-long 52-yard field goal from Shene Joshua, but it was 22-yard Bruce Hall touchdown run with 2:19 left in the second quarter that proved pivotal. "The score before the half was really big," said Demons` coach Scott Stoker. "We were right there with them but that gave them a big lift and made it a two-score lead. We didn`t tackle very well at times and we share the blame, but you have to credit their ballcarriers. tackled Green-Ellis and Schaeffer." Ole Miss added 10 points on its two possessions in the third quarter while the Demons could manage only three first downs on three series. "They loaded up on us and took control of the game in the third quarter," said Stoker. "We needed to hit a big play or two to get back in it and give Ole Miss credit, we weren`t able to do it." "We took care of the vertical (passing) routes," said Orgeron. "We didn`t blitz much on first and second down after halftime, and got in a couple of blitzes on third downs." The Demons missed a fourth-and-2 conversion try at the Rebels` 43 on the first play of the fourth quarter, with true freshman quarterback Germayne Edmond thrown for a loss. That was the last time NSU crossed midfield. Ole Miss ran 11 of its 19 plays in the final period in Demons territory but couldn`t pad its lead. The Rebels posted a 401-261 yardage advantage with tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis running for 116 yards on 14 carries and Hall adding 85 on 12 attempts. Quarterback Brent Schaeffer passed for 175 yards, completing 13 of 23 including a 35-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to Mike Wallace. Northwestern got 82 yards rushing by sophomore tailback Byron Lawrence. The Demons used a 43-yard Clay Broyles pass reception and a 33-yard Lawrence scamper to set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Roch Charpentier to Dudley Guice, capping an 85-yard march on their first series and knotting the game at 7-all. The Demons chose to punt on fourth-and-2 at the Rebels` 35 on their second series. After Ole Miss went ahead 10-7, Northwestern missed a fourth-and-3 at the Rebels` 29 when Nate Banks raked away a Charpentier pass to Guice at the 25. Ole Miss marched 71 yards in nine plays for a 17-7 lead, with Schaeffer converting a fourth-and-2 at the NSU 38 by drilling a 5-yard pass to Wallace. "They hit their fourth down conversions, we didn`t. Big difference," said Stoker. Northwestern continued its recent trend of reducing mistakes by suffering no turnovers and drawing only three penalties, both season lows. "I liked the effort, and that it was a clean game. No turnovers, three penalties, it`s hard to do better than that as far as execution," said Stoker. "Sometimes we were outmanned, sometimes we didn`t execute the play call, but there were plenty of times we went out and got the job done today." The Demons got a team-high seven tackles, including an 11-yard sack, and two pass breakups from true freshman cornerback Josh Adams. Sophomore Mack Dampier and senior T.J. McMillan, both linebackers, each had six stops as the Purple Swarm defense kept NSU within range all day. "Northwestern State came up with good schemes," said Orgeron. "We knew the defensive line was pretty good. They have a couple of guys who will probably be in the NFL next year. They had a couple of blitzes ready for our protection. They did a good job. I think those coaches do an excellent job." The Demons play their two biggest rivals in a pair of key Southland Conference games to wrap up the regular season. They return home next Saturday night to play host to McNeese State, then travel to Stephen F. Austin on Thursday night, Nov. 16. Sweeping those games could give NSU a shot at the conference title and the Division I-AA playoffs. "We have a pretty good team, and we competed pretty good today," said Stoker. "Now we get back to playing for a championship and that`s why you come to Northwestern State."