NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Brad Lewis threw five touchdown passes as West Virginia ended Don Nehlen's 21-year run at the school with a 49-38 victory over Mississippi on Thursday in the Music City Bowl.
Lewis, who had just eight TD passes in the regular season, picked apart the Rebels (7-5) to keep the Big East Conference's record perfect against the Southeastern Conference in the three years of the bowl game.
The victory broke a string of eight straight bowl losses for West Virginia, and gave Nehlen his 202nd career win. He leaves after 21 years with the Mountaineers.
West Virginia (7-5) dominated the first three quarters and built a 49-9 lead before the Rebels (7-5) rallied behind Eli Manning to make it respectable.
The Mississippi fans among the crowd of 47,119 who stayed until the end had to be heartened by the performance of Manning, the redshirt freshman son of Archie Manning and brother of Peyton Manning, who threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the first of his career.
But by then Lewis and the Mountaineers had gotten too far away. Lewis was perfect in the first half, when he completed all seven of his passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns. He set up another score as West Virginia took a 35-9 halftime lead, and finished with 318 passing yards.
Any hopes the Rebels had of seizing momentum in the second half were damaged when Shawn Terry returned the second-half kickoff 99 yards to put West Virginia ahead 42-9, then all but destroyed when Lewis threw his fifth TD pass, covering 10 yards to Khori Ivy, with nearly 10 minutes still left in the third quarter to make it 49-9.
Lewis' first TD pass covered 40 yards to fullback Wes Ours on the Mountaineers' opening possession, and Ivy made a nice one-handed stab for an 11-yard TD early in the second quarter.
Then Lewis hooked up with Antonio Brown on scoring throws of 35 and 60 yards.
The touchdown passes to Brown came on drives of three plays and two plays that took a cumulative 52 seconds off the clock.
After Rick Sherrod intercepted Romero Miller's pass and returned it to the Ole Miss 29 later in the second quarter, Lewis hit Ivy for 25 yards to set up a short touchdown run by Ours and make it 35-9 at halftime.
Miller scored the Rebels' first touchdown on a 7-yard scramble in the third quarter to make it 49-16.
Manning took over for the fourth quarter and threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Jamie Armstrong, 18 yards to Omar Rayford and 16 yards to Toward Sanford after freezing the Mountaineers with a nice fake on a fourth-and-1 play.
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