Day After Observations

It took so long to play the last 10 minutes of that game I kept wondering what else could happen to slow it down. I decided the only thing missing was the streaker that ran onto the field in Fayetteville for the Ole Miss-Arkansas game in 2002.

Standing on the field waiting for it to get over I was hoping for a couple of safeties, one for each team. That would have made it 36-26, and I would have been right on the money with the score. I could have picked 34-24, but that’s kind of boring.

I did think it would be a closer game than Arkansas’ previous SEC encounters. I just figure the turnovers had to go the Hogs’ way at some point, and they finished the game plus-1 in that category. The one give-away was a big one with Senquez Golson ending a scoring threat with an end zone interception.

That pick was huge, allowing Ole Miss to play with a 17-point lead for much of the fourth quarter. The Rebels didn’t score on the drive after Golson’s take away, but the drove 33 yards and punted Arkansas back to its 13. The Razorbacks embarked on an 87-yard touchdown drive, but when they finally scored to cut the deficit to 10, less than 5 minutes remained in the game.

There was a lot of talk about Ole Miss being sluggish, and I think it looked that way, because Arkansas did a good job of stopping the run, holding the Rebels to 112 yards on 39 carries, just 2.9 yards per rush.

The Rebels’ best running of the day  when they drove 93 yards but had to settle for a field goal and a 13-3 lead early in the second quarter. I’Tavius Mathers carried three times for 28 yards on that drive. Jaylen Walton also got free for a 56-yard gain on a wheel route.

The end result was a first-and-goal from the 2, but the Rebels were unable to get physical and get the ball in the end zone. I was surprised we didn’t see the big blocking package or Barry Brunetti down there. It was a missed opportunity that could have come back to bite the Rebels but didn’t.

Great day for Bo Wallace, but let’s start with the picks. The first one I called a miscommunication. Hugh Freeze said the receiver broke off the route too early. The pass went long and into the arms of the Arkansas defender.

The second interception came on the fourth down from the Arkansas 32 as Ole Miss was trying to run out the clock. Freeze said he told Wallace no matter what happened not to take a sack. That didn’t mean Wallace had to loft it high into the field of play.

Going for it on fourth down was definitely the right call, and had the Rebels picked up the first it would have gotten all the media home about a half hour earlier to take full advantage of the rare morning kickoff. Help us out guys.

Now, beyond the picks Wallace was pretty much on the money, 26-for-33 which equates to 78.7 percent. His 407 yards were a career high, and his talented group of receivers helped him out with dependable hands and great catches. They broke tackles — Vincent Sanders in the first quarter and Donte Moncrief in the fourth — and caught passes that were out in front of them — Laquon Treadwell with the swing passes, Ja-Mes Logan with the long ball.

The final book shows a 52-yard touchdown catch for Moncrief — a great play in which he made the first man miss — but there needs to be a stat for that downfield block by Jordan Holder.

Freeze thought his defense was up and down. That bunch did turn it what might have been a game-changing play when it dropped Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams for a 9-yard loss on an attempted halfback pass. The Hogs had a first down at the Ole Miss 39 then, just a carry away from field goal range, and trailed 20-17 at the time.

Tackling was pretty good, but there weren’t enough of those big plays against the Arkansas run game. Much of the credit there goes to Arkansas, because they run it pretty well. Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Bret Bielema and his staff gave a few new wrinkles to their run package that caused the Rebels some problems. Looked to me like the Rebels stayed blocked on the edge more than they needed to. It didn’t take much of a crease for Alex Collins to break through.

At the end of the day Freeze was able to use words like sluggish and inconsistent for a game his team still won by 10 points and did so with the absence of drama at the end.

That’s a far cry from Ole Miss football just a year and a half ago. There’s something to be said for winning an SEC game without your best effort.

This was a trap game for Ole Miss, because Arkansas is not as bad as its record. It’s clearly not a talented offense beyond the running backs, but that run game can give the Hogs a chance if they don’t give away the football, and in this game they really did not except for the one mentioned above.

Ole Miss could have done a better job with finishing early drives with touchdowns and really blew the game open, but at least the Rebels were able to keep the ball away from Arkansas and not allow the Hogs to dominate the clock and shorten the game.

The Rebels had 531 total yards, the third straight 500-plus game, two of those in the SEC. I’m thinking, though, that Ole Miss needs more points right now for the yards they’re getting. Missouri will have a pretty stout defense in a couple of weeks, and missed opportunities will be harder to overcome.

Saturday the Rebels were able to take the big first step in the strong finish after the open date. They should be able to beat Troy for their seventh win to surpass last year’s regular season win total, and suddenly that big finish seems even more attainable when you get the schedule down to two games.

I don’t think Freeze will be able to talk about sluggish play from a winning perspective against Missouri, but I also think the Rebels, assuming they take care of Troy, will come out emotionally hyped for a big opportunity in what is almost certain to be a Vaught-Hemingway Stadium night kickoff and the seniors last game on Nov. 23.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • Killer_Beeze

    PA, you said: “I was surprised we didn’t see the big blocking package or Barry Brunetti down there (on the goal line). It was a missed opportunity that could have come back to bite the Rebels but didn’t.”
    My exact same thoughts. That was definitely Barry Brunetti’s play. Would be interesting to know why Coach Freeze didn’t send him in? Did he re-injure his shoulder? Man, it would be so nice to have Jordan Holder for one more year. What a clutch player. He did his daddy proud last night. :))
    I’m thinking like you PA….that the Rebels played just enough to win. Without those two big Bo Wallace pass plays it could have been a much much closer game. The Rebels have to be a lot sharper when Mizzou comes calling.

    • Parrish Alford

      I don’t think it was a question of injury with the shoulder, because Brunetti came back and played later, moving the Rebels from near the goalline to set up the Wallace-to-Logan pass. I think going with the same personnel on the goalline in the second quarter was a decision made because they’d run so well on the drive to that point.

      • Killer_Beeze

        Maybe so…but the package they had just didn’t ”feel right” to me. My immediate reaction was: where’s Brunetti? Barry IMO would have scored that close in to the goal line.

        PA…thanks for all your great articles. I know I speak for the other bloggers that you and your time & effort reporting on Rebel football is appreciated.

        • Parrish Alford

          Thanks Beeze

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